Monday, June 20, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Karyn Henley!

I'm thrilled that we have Karyn Henley here today, whose beautiful YA fantasy debuts TOMORROW!

Award-winning author Karyn Henley has written more than one hundred titles.  An accomplished songwriter, Karyn has been a Dove Award nominee, and received a regional Emmy Award as music composer for a television special.  She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, a jazz drummer.


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 arrives at the temple.  Having committed the fatal act as a hawk, he now appears as a man.  What Melaia has known only through song and story has suddenly been given flesh.  Angels.  Shape-shifters.  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 the band of wandering angels who are attempting to restore the stairway.  But 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.

Q:  You're multi-published in non-fiction, but this is your YA debut.  How was the process for this book different than the other books you've published?

A:  One thing that’s different is the writing process. For me, writing non-fiction tends to be cerebral, even though I approach it with a creative hand. But a novel, especially fantasy like Breath of Angel, originates and grows from imagination. With non-fiction, I feel more like I’m on solid ground. I can back up facts with research and experience. With fiction I follow a shifting, uncertain path relying only on intuition. My critique partners helped me immensely. They’re experienced, published novelists who tell me when I’m heading toward quicksand – or drag me out if I’m already in it! 

The editing process is different too. When my fiction editor questioned a scene or motivation or plot thread, I couldn’t go to outside research to find the answers. I could go only into myself to dig out the answers. It was great fun – but hard, mind-bending work at the same time. 

Q:  What attracted you to YA?  

A:  Actually, I began writing Breath of Angel without thinking of what age group I was writing for. I gave myself the freedom to just go where my heart took me. As the story developed, it became clear that the issues my protagonist faces and the language I was using were most suited for YA. Which is great. I love reading YA and believe it’s an awesome time to be in YA. Some of the best of all writing being done now is YA.  

Q:  Melaia's world is so wonderfully and fully realized.  What was your inspiration for the mythology of the book?

A:  Part of the inspiration was Greek and Roman mythology in which dryads live among the trees, muses bring inspiration for the arts, and gods and goddesses interacted with humans. Another part came from Bible stories of angels, who always seem so mysterious. So Melaia’s world has an ancient mythological feel, but with angels in the place of gods and goddesses.

Q:  You are so multi-talented, with experience in songwriting, ministry, teaching, public-speaking...truly a Renaissance woman!  How do you fit it all in, and discipline yourself to write not just one but an entire series of books?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to work full-time as a communicator, whether writing, speaking, or teaching. It’s my career, my nine-to-five job. Of course a writer can’t simply turn off the brain at five o’clock. Ideas come and go whenever they want. So I try to keep pen and notepad handy. I usually work on several projects at once. It’s kind of like cooking. All the burners have pots on them, and I pay particular attention to the one that’s boiling at the moment. When I get stuck on one project, I can usually move to another one for awhile. Of course some of those pots boil because of deadlines, and I don’t have the luxury of letting those simmer. But while I’m working on a deadline, something else is simmering.

Q:  Angels, obviously, play an enormous role in The Angelaeon Circle.  So my Apocalypse-themed question for you is, what role do you think angels will play in the end of the world?

A:  Because angels are messengers and guides, I think angels will probably guide us to where we need to go next and will give us good counsel on the way. They’ll probably reassure us that all is well and that we have everything exquisitely good and beautiful to look forward to.
I love that answer!  Gives a much nicer vision for the future than zombies and cricket bats.  Thanks, Karyn, for being here.  Pick up BREATH OF ANGEL, Book One of The Angelaeon Circle, tomorrow!

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