Fantasy Friday – Introducing Karyn Henley

In case anyone isn’t noticing, young adult (YA) literature is hot right now, especially fantasy. Following this trend, any number of writers who published adult fiction now write for the YA market. Of late I’ve learned of several children’s book writers who are making the switch too. They may be well-known in one arena, but when they write for a new audience, they, too need an introduction. Such is the case with today’s author — Karyn Henley.

If her name sounds familiar, it isn’t surprising. Karyn is the author of the original The Beginner’s Bible which sold over five million copies during the fifteen years it was in print. She’s also an accomplished and award-winning song writer and has some 100 books to her credit — picture books, easy readers, curriculum, and parenting books. Throw in the numerous articles she’s written and the CDs she’s made, and it almost seems like Karyn’s should be a household name!

Karyn is a native Texan, though she now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Growing up in Abilene, she was a great reader, even reading as she walked to her grandmother’s house from school. Her love of books carried into adulthood. After graduating from Abilene Christian University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education, she became a preschool teacher, and her favorite time of the day was story time when she read aloud to her children.

Her migration to YA fiction came as a direct result of her continuing education. She received her Masters of Fine Arts Degree from Vermont College in 2004. One of her advisers, Kathi Appelt, became a great supporter and encouraged Karyn to grow as a writer. She accepted the challenge and began to write a novel. It soon became apparent from the language and the issues the protagonist faced, that the story was most suited for young adults.

Writing fantasy seems to be a natural fit, too. Karyn’s early reading included a generous dose of myth and fairy tales. She also appreciates specific aspects of writers such as Ursula LeGuin and Orson Scott Card. Consequently when she started writing, she naturally gravitated toward fantasy.

Some may think of her work as paranormal romance, but Karyn differentiates because her series, The Angelaeon Circle (Waterbrook Multnomah), takes place in an ancient time where an acceptance of the supernatural was … well, more natural. Consequently, she considers her work to be high fantasy.

I like ancient and medieval settings for fantasy, because the worlds are slower and very different, and I don’t have to know the latest technology. Besides, when I go into the world of a book, I like to be transported far away. Working within an ancient world allows me to explore very different ways of life and places where the rules are different. For me, characters in ancient settings can be closer to the earth, rawer in their emotions, more deeply connected to the big struggles of survival that fantasy addresses so well. (excerpt from “Blog Tour Interview: Author Karyn Henley“)

Karyn was literally transported far away this summer when she traveled to Norway to attend her son’s wedding. She planned to do a little research for the third of her series.

Book one, Breath of Angel, debuted last June, and the second, Eye of the Sword, is due out in March.

Besides writing, Karyn lists reading as one of her hobbies. She also bakes bread, gardens (though she doesn’t have a green thumb), and bird-watches. She loves chocolate, prefers spring and fall to either winter or summer, and finds inspiration for her writing in Greek and Roman mythology.

To learn more about Karyn, visit her Facebook page, fiction website, and blog. To read an excerpt of the upcoming release, visit her publisher’s Sneak Peek page.

Published in: on January 27, 2012 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  
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What Constitutes “Derivative”? Part 2

Reminder: Today is the last day to vote in the Clive Staples Award – Readers Choice for the best Christian speculative novel published in 2008 by a royalty-paying publisher.

Also, you have until December 2 to vote for the November CSFF Top Tour Blogger.

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I find this “what constitutes derivative” topic interesting because the accusation that a work is derivative seems to be leveled at fantasy more than at stories in other genres. When was the last time, for instance, that you heard someone criticize a romance for being derivative? Never mind that category romances, for years, followed a strict structure that was taught as necessary for the success of a novel.

I suppose, rather than “derivative” these works are considered formulaic, but didn’t they derive from one original work that contained the elements that have since become requisite to romance?

Still, I find it odd that fantasy similarly can’t fall into an easy formula and be acceptable, despite Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. Rather, fantasy that cuts too close to an established work is labeled derivative, and this accusation is the kiss of death. It’s a wonder that Lord of the Rings became so successful once the derivative accusation began to swirl around Tolkien.

What exactly was it that brought the criticism, since it wasn’t setting, imaginative creatures, plot points, people groups, poetry, names, prose or style?

I suggest, in the case of Lord of the Rings, critics saw similarities with the central premise in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen:

The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world

Add to this that the ring was cursed, enslaving whoever would possess it, and you have strikingly similar central plot points. Discussion swirls around the idea that the similarities exist because Tolkien and Wagner drew from the same influences. Yet some scholars cling to the belief that Tolkien knowingly “borrowed” Wagner’s core concept.

Interestingly, some fantasy is intentionally derivative. I think of Bryan Davis’s Raising Dragons and Stephen Lawhead’s King Raven Trilogy. Both derive intentionally from the legend of King Arthur. However, both, in unique ways, twist the familiar story in such a way that it becomes unique.

The accusation of “derivative” is not used in such instances. Instead, it seems to be reserved for works that either model themselves after another work (which is what Christopher Paolini seems to be accused of) or those that utilize someone else’s unique development (science fiction that employs Star Trek technology and lingo, for instance).

In some cases, it seems as if critics are simply weary of stories with tropes such as good versus evil, at least ones that represent good as good and evil as evil. Normally bad vampires, as good seem to be all the rage, but then the Twilight books are hardly high fantasy.

I guess my point is this: the accusation of “derivative” has been around since Tolkien first made fantasy literature a thing of its own. Does the mere suggestion that a story is similar to some other source mean it does not have merit? I think millions of Lord of the Ring readers would say otherwise.

Fantasy Friday – What Constitutes “Derivative”? Part 1

Before I begin, just a reminder: you have until November 30 to vote in the Clive Staples Award – Readers Choice for the best Christian speculative novel published in 2008 by a royalty-paying publisher.

Also, you have until December 2 to vote for the November CSFF Top Tour Blogger. Lots of really, really good posts. I’ll be honest. I still have to vote because I’m having a hard time making up my mind. 😯

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Some while ago, as I prepared a post over at Spec Faith, I stumbled upon something interesting in a Wikipedia article about J.R.R. Tolkien. Some scholars claim this great fantasy writer owed a debt of influence where he claimed none.

Due to the common use of the same textual sources employed by Tolkien and [Richard] Wagner there are a large list of close parallels between The Lord of the Rings and the Der Ring des Nibelungen. Several critics have made the assumption that the novel was directly derived from Richard Wagner’s operas.

Despite the similarities of his work to the Volsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied, which were the basis for Richard Wagner’s opera series, Tolkien dismissed critics’ direct comparisons to Wagner, telling his publisher, ‘Both rings were round, and there the resemblance ceases.’ According to Humphrey Carpenter’s biography of Tolkien, the author held Wagner’s interpretation of the relevant Germanic myths in contempt.

In the contrary sense, some critics hold that Tolkien’s work borrows so liberally from Wagner that Tolkien’s work exists in the shadow of Wagner’s.

J.R.R. Tolkien, derivative? So those critics claimed.

I find that to be thoroughly ironic because the great accusation against writers of high fantasy today is that their work is derivative, a mere shadow of, you guessed it, J.R.R. Tolkien.

While Tolkien denied taking his ideas from Wagner, he did not hesitant to mention others who influenced him such as William Morris, H. Rider Haggard’s novel She, and S. R. Crockett’s historical novel The Black Douglas.

So what’s the difference between derivative work and that which has come under the influence of another?

Whether Tolkien mentioned it or not, his work bears clear markings of Finnish, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse mythology. Some think there’s even a dose of Celtic mythology, though Tolkien claimed a distaste for those works.

But “derived”? Only the similarities to Wagner seem to have stirred this accusation?

Maybe the easiest way to come at this would be to identify what did not illicit the derivative accusation.

1. Including mythical creatures such as elves and dwarfs.

2. A fictive world pitting good versus evil.

3. Similarities between Hobbits and the “table high” characters in Edward Wyke-Smith’s work.

4. Monsters apparently influenced by such works as Beowulf.

5. A paraphrased Anglo-Saxon poem as an illustration of the poetry of one people group in Tolkien’s fantasy world.

6. An adapted Shakespearean scene.

7. Intentional imitation of Morris’s prose, style, and approach.

8. Borrowed setting elements such as Mirkwood and the Dead Marshes.

If none of these earned Tolkien the accusation of derivative, what then, qualifies as such? I have some ideas I’ll share next time, but I’m interested in what you think. Thoughts?

Published in: on November 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm  Comments (3)  
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