Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


I’m delighted to introduce author Karen Hulene Bartell, PhD:

Please introduce yourself and tell us something about your books.

My name is Karen Hulene Bartell. I’m the author of Sacred Choices, Belize Navidad, Sacred Gift, Karen1[2]Sovereignty of the Dragons, and Untimely Partners, as well as a motivational keynote speaker, IT technical editor, wife, professor emeritus of Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan, and the University of Texas at Austin, and all-around pilgrim of life.

I write the kind of books I want to read: spooky, but not gory; romantic, but not graphic.

What genres do you write in?

That’s a quirky question for me. I’ve tried writing in numerous genres. My bread-and-butter job is an IT technical writer, so I’ve written every kind of whitepaper, manual, and press release there is. I started out writing cookbooks, but, when I lectured at the universities, I wrote college textbooks. I’ve written children’s books and time-travel books, but finally I’ve found my ‘voice.’

My favorite genre is multicultural, offbeat love stories steeped in the supernatural that lift the spirit.

How did you come to write your first book and how long ago was it?

My first cookbook was The Best of Polish Cooking. I wrote it thirty years ago, and, according to my publisher and Publisher’s Weekly, it’s still a ‘best seller.’ I wrote it for three reasons. I knew I wanted to be an author. Someone had advised me that cookbooks were an easy way to break into the market – at that time, before recipes on the web took over. I loved cooking (then), and enjoyed experimenting with ethnic dishes. Plus, I had a Polish boyfriend at the time, who I wanted to impress 😉

When you sit down to write a new story, do you know what the ending will be before you start or does it evolve as you write?

I’ve never yet known what the ending will be. I start out with a vague idea of the plot. Then, as the characters develop, the story evolves. Many times, characters write their own scenes. They just ‘happen.’ Once, a character’s wife came to me me in a dream, advising what to write.

Are you a self-published author?

No, my publisher is Pen-L Publishing, but how they became my publisher is a funny story. After trying to get Sacred Spaces published for several months, I decided to self-publish it. I uploaded it to the web on Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, it occurred to me that I’d sent the manuscript to a publisher several weeks before. Thinking it was the polite thing, I emailed them saying not to bother reading it, that it was published. After many back-and-forth emails, later that same day, they suggested that I divide into two books, Sacred Choices and Sacred Gift, and they offered me a five-year contract for as many books as I could write. (Follow-up note: Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices, is being released in April.)

Which is the hardest part about being an author – the writing, the editing or the marketing?

The hardest part of writing is the marketing. IMHO, 95% of ‘writing’ is marketing. I write because I’m called. I love it. It simply flows. Editing’s second nature to me, but marketing is something I’ve had to develop. Scratch that. It’s something I’m learning as I go.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?

If I could vacation anywhere, I’d go to Spain. It’s ironic that you ask! For our upcoming twenty-fourth anniversary, my husband surprised me with a trip to Spain next month. (Inside information: Spain will be the setting for my next novel. Working title: Christmas in Barcelona.)

Do you have your own website?

I do:

Web site:



Amazon Reviews:

Amazon Author’s Page:

Sacred Choices on Goodreads:

Goodreads Author Page:

My Goodreads Blog:

Are you working on a new book at the moment?

I’m putting the finishing touches on Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices.

Everyone’s gifted, but some people never open their package.


Angela Maria Brannon, the adopted baby from Sacred Choices has come of age. Because of her Sacred Choicesconnection with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin and Our Lady of Guadalupe, she has a special gift. Able to communicate with the afterlife, she helps souls both in this world and the next to forgive and progress.

Because of Angela, her birth-mother Ceren comes full circle with her past, tying in with Develyn’s future. Develyn, the survivor of a botched abortion, hears God’s call, slowly transitioning from Goth Girl to postulant. Esteban’s earthbound spirit is liberated, allowing him to move on. Judith tears off her defensive ‘Band-Aid’ of busyness to forgive herself, come to terms with her aborted child, and reconcile with the child’s father. Pastora recognizes her concealed gift and its potential.

Located in the Texas Hill Country, along San Antonio’s River Walk and Mission Trail, Sacred Gift features eerie encounters with spectres, analemmas, and solar illuminations with both religious and astronomical significance. Kissed by the divine and grazed by the ungodly, Sacred Gift proves there’s “more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of….”


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