Karyn Henley

Read more about Karyn Henley.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: June 20, 2011

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Breath of Angel | WaterBrook/Random House | YA Fantasy | June 21, 2011

Melaia, a young priestess, stumbles upon a stranger with wings and finds herself embroiled in a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm. She takes refuge with a band of wandering angels attempting to restore the stairway, but the restoration is impossible without the repayment of an ancient debt - "breath of angel, blood of man," a payment woven into Melaia's destiny.

Please describe your writing environment.

My writing desk is a nook under the eaves at one end of my bedroom. The windows look out on my backyard and the big trees there, so it's easy for me to feel like I'm writing in a treehouse.

Please tell us your latest news!

I'll be attending my son's wedding in Norway this summer. He's marrying a Norwegian girl whose hometown is north of the Arctic Circle, so the sun won't go down while we're there! I also hope to do some research in Norway on settings for novel #3 of the Angelaeon Circle.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I don't really have one favorite author. I like a variety of authors for different reasons. For example, I love the way Ursula LeGuin pulls the reader close to her characters and at the same time immerses her fantasy worlds in realistic social issues. I am in awe of Orson Scott Card, particularly for his skill in withholding backstory and crucial details and revealing them at just the right time. And I thoroughly enjoy Tamora Pierce's strong female protagonists.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I became interested in writing when I first began teaching in a private preschool. My favorite time of day was story time when I would read aloud to the children. I began to think I might try my hand at writing. So my first stories were for preschoolers. When I decided to try to grow as a writer, I attended Vermont College of Fine Arts, which was where I was challenged to move out of my comfort zone and try something new. My YA fantasy novels are the direct result of that challenge. And what a delightful challenge it is!

What main genre do you write in?

Science Fiction / Fantasy

What's been the most challenging part of writing for you?

The most challenging part of writing is the business side - marketing and promotion. I'm an introvert and would gladly hole up in a garret simply writing for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, writing seems to have become a glamour business with writers expected to be visible and in some sense "stars." So I spend some time each day blogging or tweeting or Facebooking, and that's a challenge. I'd rather spend those hours writing. But these days, that's not possible if you want to sell what you write! So the challenge is juggling the all-important writing time with the business side of being an author.

Who has been your best supporter? How have they been there for you?

Kathi Appelt has been one of my greatest encouragers. She was one of my advisers when I pursued my MFA in writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Kathi has been very generous with her time, expertise, and connections. She always has a smile and an encouraging word for me (and everyone). And she's a wonderful writer!

Do you like to mix genres?

I write whatever is in my heart, so I mix genres all the time. I've written picture books, easy readers, music for children and adults, curriculum . . . nothing is out of bounds for me, although if something has "been done" before, I tend to go a different direction, trying not to copy trends. I'd rather blaze my own trail.

What book are you reading now? What are your thoughts on it?

Right now, I'm rereading the book STORY by Robert McKee. It's one of the best books on writing that I own and one of the only ones I reread faithfully. Every time I read it, I get more and more insight into how to improve my storytelling.

What inspires your writing?

I grew up reading and especially enjoyed myths and fairy tales. I also enjoy wondering about the big issues that tend to come in opposites like life and death, good and evil, love and hate, fear and courage, revenge and forgiveness. With those inspirations, when I began writing novels, I naturally gravitated to fantasy, which allows me to explore all those issues with settings and characters where the rules are different and you never know what's going to happen.

Who's your agent? Please tell us about them.

My agent is Cheryl Pientka with Jill Grinberg Literary Management, and she's a perfect fit. When I was searching for agents, I was advised to find someone who loved my work, and when Cheryl first called in response to my manuscript, she told me that I had converted her to my fantasy world; she was a believer in what I had created and wanted to see more. She did ask for a few revisions before she began pitching the manuscript, but the revisions she requested were right on target. Cheryl is wonderful and is my biggest fan. I feel very, very fortunate to be able to work with her.

Wishing you the best of angels!

Karyn Henley