Through the Veil by Colleen Halverson-Guest Post-Finding Inspiration in Irish Mythology

Where the fairy tale ends, destiny begins.

Elizabeth Tanner is no Tinkerbell, and her life is no fairy tale. Broke and drowning in student loans, the one thing she wants more than anything is a scholarship from the Trinity Foundation. But after the ancient Irish text she’s studying turns out to be more than just a book, she becomes their prisoner instead. And when Trinity reveals Elizabeth is half-Fae, she finds herself at the center of a plot to save the magical races of Ireland from a brutal civil war.

As Commander of Trinity’s elite warriors, Finn O’Connell isn’t used to having his authority challenged. He doesn’t know whether to punish or protect the infuriating young woman in his custody. When he discovers the Dark Fae want to use Elizabeth’s abilities to control the source of all power in the universe, he’ll risk everything to help her.

At the mercy of Trinity and enslaved to the Dark Fae, Elizabeth finds herself alone on the wrong side of an Irish myth thousands of years in the making. Refusing to be a pawn in their game, Elizabeth has to fight her way back to the man she loves, but to do so, she must wage her own war against the magic that binds her.

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Finding Inspiration in Irish Mythology

My introduction into the world of Irish mythology happened on the very first night I traveled to Ireland when, after consuming several pints, I fell into step with a young man from Cork on my way back to my room. In the middle of a rambling joke involving a duck and a hurley stick, he digressed into the story of the Irish demi-god Cuchulain. Later on that trip, someone would recite to me the Song of Amergin in the common room of a hostel, and later an old woman who kindly picked me up on the side of the road would tell me the story of Maeve on the way up to Donegal. 
What became clear to me during my travels in Ireland is these stories are not tales that sit on a dusty shelf, but are very much alive and continue to grow and change with every retelling. I feel that at their core, these myths have something crucial to say about love and loyalty, honor and kindness, and the boundaries that separate us and define us for who we are. It’s why the Irish still tell these stories, and it’s why they captured my imagination so many years ago. 
The more I read Irish writers, the more I realized how even contemporary works draw from the deep wells of mythology. In ancient times, there were four provinces of Ireland: Munster, Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht. But there was also a space called “The Fifth Province” which was a sort of “in-between” space of magic. This is Tír na nÓg, or the Faerie realm, and this space still lingers in the imaginations of many Irish writers. 
For instance, the characters in James Joyce’s Ulysses wander through Dublin on a very ordinary day on June 16th, 1904, but on this other level, they’re playing out entire epics. WB Yeats and his wife would do this weird sort of “automatic writing” thing to channel spirits, and these séances would later help him write some of the greatest poems of the 20th century. One of my favorite Irish writers Éilís Ní Dhuibhne splices in traditional Irish folklore in her contemporary stories to explore female experiences that might otherwise be “unspeakable.” These authors led me to want to better understand the cultural origins of this impulse, and eventually, as I read more folklore and myth, a whole world began to take shape in my mind with a concrete history and a wide cast of magical characters. 
The origins of Through the Veil, though, lie within a tiny line in Lady Gregory’s collection of Irish myth called Gods and Fighting Men. This book is a treasure trove of inspiration for me. It chronicles the magical invasions of Ireland and the many adventures of the Fianna, a band of Celtic warriors with real historical origins. According to myth, the Fianna protected the mortal world from some of the darker beings from the Faerie realm, but they eventually died out. However, at the end of Gods and Fighting Men, we learn that perhaps they didn’t fade out of existence but are living among us still. Reading this line sent my imagination spinning, and I wondered what would happen if the Fianna were still living today, if they were still protect humans from the Dark Fae. It seemed a story I needed to tell, and so I set out exploring what would happen if one these hot Fianna dudes ended up having to help a lost graduate student…who happened to find a magic book…and then Finn and Elizabeth were born. 
While Through the Veil draws from Irish mythology, I love bringing these stories into a contemporary context. I don’t know if there is such thing as a “Fifth Province,” but I like to believe that there is some other, in-between world all around us. It’s the place where we keep our memories, where we keep our love, our joy, and our passion. And I think sometimes we have to delve into these ancient tales to remember our modern world still contains a little magic. 

About the author: 

As a child, Colleen Halverson used to play in the woods imagining worlds and telling stories to herself. Growing up on military bases, she found solace in her local library and later decided to make a living sharing the wonders of literature to poor, unsuspecting college freshman. After backpacking through Ireland and singing in a traditional Irish music band, she earned a PhD in English with a specialization in Irish literature. When she’s not making up stories or teaching, she can be found hiking the rolling hills of the Driftless area of Wisconsin with her husband and two children.

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