Some people have said some nice things about my work. Other people were kind enough to interview me on their lovely websites. Here’s a bit of it here:


For The Witch’s Boy

The Witch’s Boy is equal parts enchanting and haunting. Kelly Barnhill is master of truly potent and unruly magic.” —Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs and The Real Boy

“It’s a story with many alluring elements, including a boy who is rejected by his village after surviving an accident that killed his identical twin; a bandit king’s motherless daughter; a wolf; and a little clay pot full of magic. Barnhill (“Iron Hearted Violet,” “The Mostly True Story of Jack”) creates an absorbing world of kingdoms and prophecies in which transformation comes through language, and through courage and self-awareness as well. . . it should open young readers’ eyes to something that is all around them in the very world we live in: the magic of words.” – The New York Times.

“When Ned was young, he and his twin brother built a raft and tried to sail to the sea. The raft sank, and one boy survived–the wrong boy, if you ask the villagers in Ned’s tiny town. Alternately whispered about, teased, and outright ignored, Ned survives his brother’s death with a stutter and an air of palpable sadness that seems to weigh down his weak frame. Meanwhile, in the middle of a formidable forest the villagers claim used to be home to nine stone giants, a young girl named Aine lives a fractured life with her father, who leads a horde of bloodthirsty bandits. When the raiders attempt to steal the magic Ned’s mother guards so faithfully, Ned and Aine end up as unlikely allies on a journey to right an ancient wrong. Careful, confident Aine; whose skills, both domestic and wild, make her a formidable ally (and excellent heroine), is a studied contrast to the weaker, shy Ned. The boy’s growing confidence and ability to wield and protect his mother’s magic adds elements of a classic origin-quest tale to a story that’s already brimming with a well-drawn, colorful supporting cast, a strong sense of place, and an enchanted forest with a personality to rival some of the best depictions of magical woods.” School Library Journal, starred review

“In a story of an unexpected hero, a thief’s daughter, and some very tricky magic, Barnhill weaves a powerful narrative about the small tragedies that happen when parents fail their children, even with the best intentions. After Ned’s twin brother, Tam, drowns, his mother, the village’s Sister Witch, binds Tam’s soul to Ned, who grows up as an awkward, stuttering boy ostracized by the rest of his village. Áine’s widower father loves her, but he loves his life as a Bandit King more. The magic that touches both Ned and Áine draws their lives inexorably together as they are caught up in the machinations of King Ott’s selfish empire-building. Barnhill (The Mostly True Story of Jack) makes bold character choices: Ned is soft, but never weak, while Áine is tough, prickly, yet sympathetic. Peripheral adults are well fleshed out, from Ned’s father, devastated by the loss of one child and afraid to show his love for the other, to a sensible queen who knows the value of a good witch. Barnhill elegantly joins the story’s diverse threads in a complex tale whose poignancy never turns sentimental.” –Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

“Barnhill skillfully interweaves the stories of Ned, Áine, Sister Witch and the stones, along with an intriguing group of secondary characters. The third-person narration switches perspective smoothly, and it’s all related in a precise, flowing prose that easily places readers into the fantastic setting and catches them up in the story. The classic fantasy elements are all there, richly reimagined, with a vivid setting, a page-turning adventure of a plot, and compelling, timeless themes.” – Kirkus, starred review

“The threads of this suspenseful, multi-linear narrative are as intricately stitched as Sister Witch’s handiwork, and Kelly Barnhill’s sentences are as precisely finished. With its family secrets, dark and enchanted forest and resourceful children, “The Witch’s Boy” echoes the spirit and tone of old Grimm’s fairy tales. Barnhill — whose previous books include “The Mostly True Story of Jack” and “Iron-Hearted Violet” — is an eloquent writer who spins beautiful lines.” – Washington Post

“Barnhill tells a complex story, one that sustains and subverts the usual fairy-tale tropes. For example, within richly evoked scenes of traditional village, palace, and forest life, gender roles are quietly upended (with a female soldier here or coach-driver there). Through the eyes of the brave and increasingly shrewd Ned and Áine, young readers consider the complications of magic, the corrupting desire for power, and the conflicting natures of good and evil in this atmospheric and elegantly told literary fairy tale.” Monica Edinger, The Horn Book

“In [this] gorgeously written and fast-paced adventure through forest and flood, bandits and courtiers, wolves and queens and witches, the boy and the girl must stop a war, restore magic to its rightful place, and find their own places in a world they’ve helped to make bigger. Barnhill is a fantasist on the order of Neil Gaiman, and this story feels fully inhabited.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Kelly Barnhill is deft at crafting strong characters, and this classic fairy tale is filled with otherworldly beasties and plenty of magic.” —San Antonio Express-News



For Iron Hearted Violet –

“Barnhill inverts common fairy-tale notions: there’s a princess who is not beautiful, a dragon more fearful than fearsome and gods who do not tower but are humble in size. The tale’s castle, which lives through magic, is the most inventive rendition of architecture since J. K. Rowling conjured Hogwarts; its living, breathing stones conceal the heart of a god.” – New York Times

“A splendid fantasy…layered and complex, Barnhill’s story brings a modern feel to age-old fairy tale tropes.”
Publishers Weekly

“Storytelling plays a key role in the book, intriguingly blurring the line between what is real and what is imaginary….Triumphant.”
The Horn Book

“Wonderful read-aloud potential…with a likable hero and heroine, a well-paced plot, and a daunting villain.”

“It’s a coming-of-age story, a mystery and an adventure about owning one’s strengths, and not shying away from them, regardless of how unorthodox they may appear to others.”
Shelf Awareness

Iron Hearted Violet is a thrilling tale of ancient magic, deception, and tremendous bravery.  This rich and compelling story will capture its readers from the very first page.  They will be hooked, awaiting the unveiling of the dark shadows and secrets of Violet’s kingdom.  I admired Violet’s courageous attitude, Demetrius’ almost telekinetic connection with the kingdom’s animals, and the mystique and mystery of the last dragon on earth.  Iron Hearted Violet is now one of my new favourite fairytales.”

And for Mostly True Story of Jack:

A starred review  from Kirkus: “A truly splendid amalgamation of mystery, magic and creeping horror will spellbind the middle-grade set.”

And another starred review from Publisher’s Weekly: “Suspense builds steadily, with twists and surprises woven throughout, and friendship emerges as a powerful theme. . . Barnhill explores the struggle between good and evil and the power of love and sacrifice, creating a provocative and highly original mystery.”

And a starred review from Booklist: “Wonderful in the best possible way: filled with wonders and magic, yes, but magic that is ancient, numinous, and tied to the natural world…Barnhill’s first novel for children is a marvel of both plotting and characterization, and it provides a foundation for the omnipresent magic that elevates this title to the first rank of contemporary children’s literature.”

A starred review from VOYA: “A compelling story with genuine characters and a deliciously creepy atmosphere. The suspense builds from the very first page…This delightful story will captivate readers with its blend of magic, mystery, and adventure.”

A mention of The Mostly True Story of Jack at A Fuse 8 Production at School Library Journal: “If I am allowed one dark horse Newbery candidate a year, then I would like to make Barnhill’s debut my dark horse. . . .This has got to be one of the creepiest middle grade titles of the year and I absolutely adore it.”

And from the Los Angeles Times: “A high-concept take on the meaning of home and the importance of family, “The Mostly True Story of Jack” is a delightfully unusual gem.”

A review of The Mostly True Story of Jack from Guys Lit Wire: “There’s a folktale logic in the story, and it’s thrilling as the danger manifests and the kids man up (in the genderless sense of the term) to face it. The core story of Jack, who he is and what his destiny may be, is awfully good. But Barnhill garnishes this with a collection of interesting human and non-human characters, all drawn in vivid strokes. The threats are real, but so are the bonds holding the characters together.”

A review of “Open The Door And The Light Pours Through”(Clockwork Phoenix 2, 2009) on SF Site : “This is a story fraught with vanishing, evanescence, the ephemeral: what begins as a correspondence between a married couple separated by the necessities of the Second World War slowly unravels into something quite different, by turns beautiful and frightening.”

A review of “Notes on the Untimely Death of Ronia Drake” (Fantasy, 2008) from The Fix:  “Kelly Barnhill’s “Notes on the Untimely Death of Ronia Drake” is a gruesome, Carteresque exploration of female archetypes at war with one another. Like last month’s “Time to Say Goodnight” by Caroline M. Yoachim, it incorporates divorce in its fantasy, but that story’s gentle magical realism is the diametric opposite of this tale’s dark surrealism.”

A review of “The Men Who Live in Trees” (Postscripts, 2008) From The Fix. “This has absolutely marvellous worldbuilding: the planet and its culture are very well depicted, with a strong sense of place (though the place itself doesn’t exactly feel SFnal, but more like a derivation of colonial Brazil or of the West Indies). Carmina herself is sympathetic, and her gradual uncovering of the events leading to her father’s death, as well as her own destiny, are convincingly depicted. Recommended.”

A Review of “Elegy to Gabrielle, Patron Saint of Healers, Whores and Righteous Thieves” (Fast Ships, Black Sails, Nightshade Books, 2008) “:….one of the most beautiful stories in the anthology. About a miracle worker who wanted to have a child, even though she shouldn’t have one, and of the consequences of that act, it’s also a story about challenging one’s fate. …. The elegant ending owes a little to García Marquez’s magical realism.”

A review of “The Stone Hearted Queen” (Weird Tales, 2008) from The Fix: “a sad and terrifying tale of how things can go very wrong even if they are for our own good. It reads almost like a fable, and it’s (very well) written as one.”

A review of “The Men Who Live in Trees” from IROSF: “A beautifully-written imaginative piece of secondary world folklore. RECOMMENDED”.

A review of “The Confessions of Prince Charming” (Fantasy, 2008) from IROSF:  “Fun, fairytale mashup.”

A review of “Tabula Rasa” (Three Lobed Burning Eye, 2008), from Black Letters: “The execution is suspenseful and atmospheric, with great details and often lovely prose.”


Q&A with Kelly Barnhill (on Publisher’s Weekly)

Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Kelly Barnhill (on

Kelly Barnhill Author Interview + Giveaway (on Booksnob)

The Pratfalls of Parenting – Kelly Barnhill (a fun podcast by Comedy Suitcase)

Kelly Barnhill: Gifts to the child I was” (on Luc Reid‘s blog)

Interview: Codex Blog Tour: Kelly Barnhill  (on Nancy Fulda’s blog)

Interview: Codex Blog Tour: Kelly Barnhill (on John Brown’s blog)

Interview: Kelly Barnhill Talks About How She Writes (

Conversations With The Bookless: Kelly Barnhill (

What are you up to, Kelly Barnhill? (

4 thoughts on “Press

  1. Dear Kelly;

    Do you have any upcoming book events for your new novel? I have several children/teen book groups for whom it may be of interest.
    Thank you.

    Pamela Klinger-Horn
    Book Club Facilitator
    Immac. Heart of Mary Catholic School
    & Excelsior Public Library

    • Thanks for asking, Pamela! I have a reading scheduled at Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore in Minneapolis on August 20. The good folks at Little, Brown are working to schedule some appearances as well in September, but I don’t have dates for those yet. Also, if you’re interested in having me come and speak to your tweens/teens, that happens to be one of my very favorite things to do! Toss me an email at and we can see if we can set something up. Cheers!

  2. Pingback: What We’re Reading: The Mostly True Story of Jack | hazel & wren

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