Karen Healey – Mistress of Supernatural New Zealand

I confess to not having read a lot of supernatural themed novels, I’m more of a sci-fi nut, but I may have been turned. Maybe not to the ‘dark side’, but definitely to the side of myths and supernatural beings.

Karen Healey’s debut work, Guardian of the Dead,  is a powerful Young Adult novel set in a Christchurch that is decidedly modern and familiar but surprising twists and turns in the story transform the Garden City into a place not quite as we know it.

As main character Ellie says in the book:

In less than a day I had been harrassed, enchanted, shouted at, cried on, and clawed. I’d been cold, scared, dirty, exhausted, hungry and miserable. And up until now, I’d been mildly impressed with my ability to cope.”

Karen has deftly woven Maori mythology, creation stories and creatures definitely more out to be your ‘beastie’ than your ‘bestie’ together with a story of teenage love and friendship, triumph of self doubt and in-your-face terror.

I’m not sure I’ll ever look at Riccarton Bush the same way again and will definitely not venture there after dark!

Karen now lives and works in Melbourne, but spent time in Christchurch and at Canterbury University, where some of story is set.

I read it in anticipation of hearing Karen speak at the The  Press Christchurch Writers Festival, but when this was sadly cancelled due to the earthquake, we decided to ask for an interview. She was very obliging, despite suffering the writer’s curse – RSI.

She is working on a new novel, due out next year called The Shattering. Her blog says that ‘the shattering’ happens to the peace of the little fictional West Coast town of Summerton, mental stability, families and bones. “You know, my usual,” she says.

I look forward to its arrival, and in the meantime, check out her interview, and her fun website and blog, that are filled with great insights and wry humour for readers and inspiring writers of all ages. I especially liked her week in food, where she photographed her dinners every day for week and put them on her site – to show what fuels the writer’s brain.

4 thoughts on “Karen Healey – Mistress of Supernatural New Zealand

  1. Helen Lowe 14 December 2010 / 8:33 am

    I had the great pleasure of being on a panel with Karen in Melbourne–“Writing Strange Lands: Other Cultures in YA Speculative Fiction”–and amidst all the other disappointments of the festival having to be cancelled was not getting to team up with her again here in Christchurch!

  2. Dr. Curiosity 16 December 2010 / 1:32 am

    Also worth pointing out, the book is a finalist for the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, presented by the American Library Association:


    And the book is awesome and I love it lots, despite not reading a whole lot of YA 🙂

    • bronnypop 16 December 2010 / 1:54 pm

      One of my faves too, and I DO read lots of YA. Interesting that they’ve chosen the white mask cover for that image on the ALA website, instead of the gorgeous green one we have here.

      • Dr. Curiosity 18 December 2010 / 12:11 am

        Given they’re the American Library Association, it makes sense that they use the American cover version.

        Karen has some interesting things to say about covers (and getting appropriate ones) here:


        (I definitely prefer the NZ cover, too.)

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