TFFOS: Karyn Henley -- Interview & Giveaway

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Kicking off week two, fantasy week, is KARYN HENLEY! She debuted with her first YA novel, BREATH OF ANGEL, last week on June 21st, though she's no newcomer to the writing scene, having written many children's books, preschool musicals, CD's/DVD's, and more. Find out more below! :)

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1. Can you summarize BREATH OF ANGEL in an acrostic poem? 
Birthed in mystery,   
Raised as a priestess, Melaia yearns for freedom,
Even as she is drawn into a world of feuding immortals 
And earthbound angels hoping to restore their stairway to heaven.
True love, first love, and Melaia’s destiny
Hinges on an ancient debt to be repaid by breath of angel, blood of man. 

2. Can you give us a bit of insight on how BREATH OF ANGEL's cover relates to the story?
The cover of Breath of Angel shows Melaia near the temple in the city of Redcliff, home of the king’s summer palace. Overhead is the hint of an angel shape in the night sky, but Melaia looks warily over her shoulder, not knowing who is worthy of her trust. At the top center of the border design is the three-pronged sign of the Tree, which is used by angels and their friends to greet one another. The sign of the Tree can be drawn as it is on the book cover, or it can be made by raising three fingers, usually over the heart, although in situations of danger, the sign is made more subtly. 

3. If you were in the story, who do you think you would be? A spectator, Melaia, an angel?
I would be an angel spectator, probably of the rank of Exousia, because these angels have two main duties. They are warriors, but they are also the keepers of history, recording events on scrolls and storing them safely in hidden libraries.   

4. How would you draw the line between paranormal and fantasy in BREATH OF ANGEL?
Technically, “paranormal” simply means supernatural, not explainable by science. In that sense most fantasy is paranormal, including Breath of Angel. But these days the term “paranormal” seems to apply more to a popular genre of fiction in which the major plot conflict comes from characters experiencing the supernatural and unexplainable within a contemporary setting. Since Breath of Angel takes place in an ancient world in which the supernatural is more accepted and expected, it’s more of what we might call “high fantasy.”  

5. On your blog, you said that you altered the angel hierarchy created by Pseudo-Dionysius. How so? And what other research went into writing BREATH OF ANGEL?

world tree // source
I renamed some of the angel ranks. According to Pseudo-Dionysius, 6th century CE, (and Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages), the three top ranks are Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones. I changed Thrones to Ophanim, which technically is the same as Cherubim. I put Thrones (which I call Thronos) into the second triad. For Dionysius’s rank of Dominations, I used the title Kuriotes, a later word used for that level. The Virtues I called Archae. For Principalities I used the Greek name Exousia. I also tweaked the responsibilities of the angel ranks according to the needs of my story.

My other research falls into two categories. One is myth and legend. I looked into legends surrounding harps, and I researched myths of the World Tree, which appears in the ancient lore of many cultures. Both make fascinating studies, and I incorporated them into the major plot of the story. You can find more information about world trees and harps on the Breath of Angel website.

The second category of research I did was on ancient Mediterranean culture. The world of the Angelaeon Circle novels is roughly comparable to ancient Rome, Greece, and Palestine. I’ve used many of the elements of these ancient cultures in the setting of the story. For example, Melaia carries a small pouch of anise seed on her journeys. Ancient people had no toothpaste or toothbrushes, so they would often crunch on a pinch of anise seed to sweeten their breath. In the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about other interesting facts of the ancient world that I’ve incorporated into the setting of the Angelaeon Circle novels. 

6. Did/do you have any particular sources of inspiration (i.e. place, event) when writing?
I’ve discovered that the mind is a treasure trove of all the experiences of the past, not only places and events, but more important sensations and emotions. As I write, these places, events, sensations, and emotions surface when I need them, which is a delightful experience in itself. When Melaia and her traveling companions had to make camp one night, I saw hot springs at the site, steaming into the cool night air. I’m sure that inspiration came from the hot springs I saw at Yellowstone as well as smaller ones I saw on the grounds of a private college in Murietta Hot Springs, California. 

7. If you could invent anything you wanted, what would it be and what would you name it?
I would invent a system of transportation that included vehicles that would never crash into each other so that no one would ever be hurt in a traffic accident. I would call it the GTS system: Get There Safely. 

harp! // source unknown
8. What would you be if you were an:
animal: a cat
color: blue
musical instrument: harp
tree: willow 

9. To wrap it up, what would your advice be to aspiring writers?
Three words: Enjoy the process. Most of a writer’s life is spent in the process of writing, which frankly is hard work. The more glamorous part of being an author (seeing the cover for the first time, seeing your name on the book, seeing the book in stores, signing copies) lasts for a very short time. Then you’re back to the process again, which in many ways is a learning process, because you’re always learning to write whichever book you’re working on at the moment. Each book brings its own challenges. So if you enjoy the actual learning and writing – or at least if you can be content during the process – you will find the writer’s life to be very satisfying and rewarding.

Thanks, Karyn! I love how she somehow managed to make her acrostic poem actually a poem (says this girl who fails at acrostics *hint*). And WOW, that research. Kudos.


Melaia, a young priestess, witnesses the gruesome murder of an emaciated stranger in the temple courtyard. Just after she discovers wings on the stranger, the murderer enters the temple, and what Melaia has known only through song and story suddenly takes on flesh. Angels and shape-shifters were myths and stories . . . until now.

Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm. When the feud turns violent and Melaia becomes a target, she finds refuge with a band of wandering angels attempting to restore the stairway. But the restoration is impossible without the repayment of an ancient debt, the “breath of angel, blood of man,” a payment that involves Melaia’s heart, soul, and destiny.


Karyn has kindly offered one finished copy of BREATH OF ANGEL by Karyn Henley to giveaway! Again, comments and following aren't necessary but appreciated. If you do want to comment, here's a question for you: If you were an angel, which one would you be (either by name, job, or rank)? You can find the angel hierarchy HERE.

To enter, fill out the form below. Open to U.S. only!