Sunday, August 28

Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance: The Difference

When people ask what kind of stories I write I don't know whether to say Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance because I'm not sure what the boundaries of each category are -- and also because I think I write both. That's my motto: If you can't pick between two great things, don't! (Buffets are my nemesis. ;)

Larissa Benoliel over at has written an excellent post on what exactly Urban Fantasy & Paranormal Romance are, how they are defined, and then goes on to give examples of books she feels fall into each category. Folks, this is an amazing post! I agree with her 100%, but even if I didn't I would admire the thought behind her blog post as well as the clarity she has brought to a difficult subject.

Here are the highlights:

Urban Fantasy:
- "... Urban Fantasy is all about the paranormal embedded in a modern setting. There might be romance, but the romance is not the primary focus and a happily ever after is never guaranteed."
- Stories that fall into the Urban Fantasy category, "usually include a love interest and even a boyfriend or another, but the focus of the series is the action, character development, and the plot."
- Narrating Voice: Heroine narrates in first person. (Not always perhaps, but most of the time.)

Examples of Urban Fantasy:
- Kat Richardson’s Greywalker series
- the Hollows series by Kim Harrison
- Charlaine Harris's Southern Mystery series
- Stacia Kane, Unholy Magic

Paranormal Romance
"... the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about Paranormal Romance is the happily ever after, in a PNR series or novel, you can absolutely expect that there will be a HEA [Happily Ever After] for a couple in each of the books in the series."
- Narrating voice: "Paranormal Romances are usually written in more than one point of view and all in third person. We constantly get to get into the leading lady’s head along with the leading male and sometimes even the villain and other side characters as well."

Examples of Paranormal Romance:
- the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward
- Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld
- Lara Adrian’s Midnight Breed
- Larissa Ione’s Demonica series.

To read the rest of a truly excellent article, click here.


  1. Interesting. I'd always assumed Jim Butcher's Dresden Files was the quintessential urban fantasy, containing details of gritty urban settings with fantastical and/or supernatural themes. I wouldn't have even mentioned romance/love interest under the category... a series character is bound to have relationships, but only for the sake of complicating the character's life in most cases.

    In my observations, I've also found that paranormal romance is usually closer to the supernatural/horror genre in theme, though I must admit that I've never really read a book in this category. I'm basing that opinion from book descriptions and reviews.

    I think this is why I had such a hard time querying Karma Crossed. The themes in that book are very much like Dresden Files, but even Dresden Files doesn't sound like urban fantasy by some definitions. Add in the fact that Karma Crossed has elements of spirituality and religion, and that the overlying plot is a conspiracy, and I don't think it ever had a chance in the legacy world. Agents and editors love a book that's just like the last good book they read... they want nothing to do with a book that's new and different (even if their profile says otherwise.)

  2. It sounds as though Karma Crossed is possessed of a rich eclecticism and that the indie world is richer for it. Readers certainly are. I doubt that one of the Big-6 publishers are going to sell books for 0.99 cents anytime soon.

    About Jim Butcher, I think his Dresden Files series is firmly in the Urban Fantacy category even though Harry is male. Like Kim Harrison's protagonist, Harry has the occasional girlfriend, but that isn't the focus of the story.

    As always, a though-provoking comment! :) Thanks for stopping by, Jamie.


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