The Origins of Fling!

At my readings, many have asked me what the impetus was for writing Fling! I’ve explained that I started keeping notes for the book in 1999. At that time, I wanted to write a lovely lyrical novel, a serious work that would allow me to explore the grandmother on my mother’s side who was very unusual for her era.

How unusual? Some background. Her husband, the one grandparent I did interact with when I was growing up, had given up his job as a Scottish schoolmaster at Achiltibuie, a tiny village in the highlands. He traveled to Canada on his own, hoping to make a better life for himself, his wife, and his five children. One problem: WWI broke out, and it was impossible for the family to board a ship at that time. They had to wait until the war ended before making the crossing, a total of seven years. By then it was almost 1920.
His oldest son, Alasdair, refused to leave Skye, but the other three boys, my mother, and my grandmother did leave behind all of their family to join my grandfather. It wasn’t a happy reunion. They gave up a community they had been part of all of their lives for the frigid, barren prairies. Mum has told me that Grandpa was physically and verbally abusive with my grandmother. A feminist before her time, she refused to put up with his behavior and moved out. She found a housekeeping job in Mount Royal, a weSlide1althy area of the city.

Apparently, she had an affair with her married boss and joined him in a trip to Mexico City where she stayed. He must have returned, leaving her there to fend for herself. She never did return. At some point, a priest contacted Grandpa because she was dying. He was about to send the money for her to return to Canada, but she didn’t make it.

This woman has haunted me over the years. Who was she and how did she find the courage to step out of a conventional life, choosing instead to explore a country hundreds of miles away? These were the questions that prompted me to attempt to capture her story in Fling! and the repercussions for all involved. It led me to unveil four generations of women and the challenges they had faced in their lives. Instead of the book being a serious exploration of these ancestors, it turned out to be more comic, as I discovered the funny bone in myself and the lighter side of their adventures. It was a way of dealing with painful material without it becoming lugubrious. According to the reviews I’ve had so far, I succeeded.

In this interview, Karen Hulene Bartell highlights the features of her new novel, Sacred Gift, Volume II of the Sacred Journey Series

NEWSacredGift_Front_4-8-15[4] copyWhat kind of recurring themes tie your first and second book of the series together?

The supernatural is a recurring theme. Angela, the uncanny baby of Sacred Choices comes of age in Sacred Gift. Kissed by the divine and grazed by the ungodly, Angela’s proof there’s “more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of” when she opens herself to communication with the afterlife. She uses her sacred gift to resolve the deep-rooted pain of those around her and spur them to recognize their potential.

The divine ties together Sacred Choices and Sacred Gift. The main characters are each on a sacred journey, and the divine subtly intervenes to guide them along their paths.

In Sacred Gift, many of the characters complete the journeys they began in Sacred Choices. Now grown, Angela Maria becomes the catalyst, the mediator. Because of her, 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. The timely topics of abortion and adoption infuse Sacred Gift.

Ceren comes ‘full circle’ with her past, ties in with Develyn’s future, and releases Esteban’s earthbound spirit. Sister Pastora recognizes her concealed gift and its potential. Jarek meets his daughter and his ‘karma.’

What do you think your readers will like or respond to the most about this story?

The sequel to Sacred Choices, Sacred Gift blends the Tex-Mex nationalities. It crosses the generations and includes multiple ethnic and cultural groups. In Sacred Gift, north meets south, and the ‘twain’ do meet. Many of the characters of the first book complete their stories in Sacred Gift, yet new characters steep the sequel with unique trials, novel missions, and fresh approaches to life’s challenges.

Though the main characters range in age from eighteen to ninety-two, from early reviews, twenty-something Develyn seems to resonate with readers. A botched-abortion survivor, whose mother died trying to abort her, she hears God’s call and slowly transitions from Goth girl to Religious.

What would a story be without romance, both for the young and young-at-heart? Astronomy-student Kio introduces Angela to moonlit river cruises, horse-drawn carriage rides, and puppy love. After eighteen years of marriage, Ceren and Justin rekindle their passion with a paranormal nudge.

Most of all, I believe readers will respond to the astro-archaeological secrets at Missions Concepción and Espada in San Antonio. Apparently, the Franciscan friars knew quite a bit about sacred geometry in the seventeen hundreds. You might say their knowledge is ‘illuminating.’

How do you incorporate the central TX area into your story? What will be familiar to people from the area?

San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country make up ninety percent of Sacred Gift’s setting. Primarily Angela travels San Antonio’s Riverwalk and Mission Trail, where she encounters the eerie apparitions and wraiths. Readers will recognize local restaurants and other venues, but Hill Country areas, such as the Devil’s Backbone, Purgatory Road, Wimberley, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Austin should also be familiar ‘haunts’ to readers in central Texas.

Roughly ten percent of Sacred Gift’s action occurs in Mexico at Mexico City’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica, Puebla, and the pyramids of Cholula and Teotihuacan. I dovetail Mexican locations into the central Texan story using flashbacks and recollections.

Were there any particular challenges writing this novel? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Over forty years ago, I terminated my only pregnancy in abortion. That still weighs on my mind. Writing Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices has not only been personally cathartic, it’s been the key to helping others who’ve traveled similar paths. Everyone has a different story, rationale, and history, but there are so many walking wounded. It’s my privilege to address these women who’ve been scarred by abortion or adoption and offer help.

How did I overcome my challenges in writing this novel? I presented both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice decision – and let each reader make their own choice. Sacred Gift explores the series of decisions that ultimately leads to that choice.

How do I continue to overcome these challenges? I make myself available to speak to women’s groups. After I give a presentation, it’s rare that one or two women don’t approach me to share their stories. I want these women to know there are ways to release their pent-up grief and move on. I want to encourage them to open their ‘gift.’ Everyone’s gifted, but some never open their package.



Karen Hulene Bartell is available for speaking engagements and can be contacted via email: Check online:

Sacred Gift is available at Amazon ( and Pen-L Publishing (, as well as all major bookstore.