Interview with Kalyn Josephson, author of HOLLOWTHORN

Kayln Josephson is the author of the middle-grade fantasy novel HOLLOWTHORN (Penguin Random House, 2023), the second book in the RAVENFALL series. HOLLOWTHORN follows best friends Anna and Colin as they venture to save their home, the magical Ravenfall Inn, from danger. Set against the backdrop of Hanukkah, HOLLOWTHORN is a beautifully crafted, compelling story that incorporates unique elements of Jewish folklore. Readers will become immersed in a world filled with suspense, magic, and the perfect sprinkling of charm. I am thrilled to learn more about the book and Kalyn’s writing process. Welcome, Kalyn!

HOLLOWTHORN is a sequel to your book, RAVENFALL, which you summarize at the beginning of the HOLLOWTHORN. Do you suggest readers start with RAVENFALL or did you write the books so they can be stand-alone stories? 

Oh interesting question. So I did write them with the intention of the reader having read the books before, as the character development and magic build on each other book to book, but the main mysteries and plots do standalone well enough that a reader could definitely pick up book 2 without reading book 1!

Kalyn Josephson

Jewish life and mysticism play a role in HOLLOWTHORN. In the book, Anna and Collin are on a quest to the Otherworld to save the Tree of  Life. Did you need to do research to learn about Jewish mysticism? If so, are there any interesting things you discovered about Jewish magic or folklore that didn’t make it into the book?

Some I drew from existing knowledge, but I still ended up doing a lot of research for the book, particularly into Sheol and the Tree of Life, but also in some smaller aspects that show up, like the gemstone trees and the way language end up playing into the magical puzzles the characters have to solve. There is sooo much fascinating Jewish magic and folklore out there that didn’t end up in the book, but one thing that comes to mind is something that actually shows up in book 3, the Theli, which is essentially a cosmic dragon that encircles the universe.

Your main characters, Anna and Collin, have unique superpowers, yet their friendship feels real and relatable. As a writer, what challenges did you face balancing worldbuilding, magic, and creating believable relationships?

Thank you! I think the toughest part for me is not getting carried away by the magic and fantasy, but instead keeping it all grounded through the lens of the characters and their relationships. So for Anna, it was about struggling to learn to use her magic and her place in her fantastical family, and for Colin, it was discovering this entire magical world he didn’t know about existed and its connection to the loss of his parents. I had to really focus on filtering all the fun, whimsical magic around those things, and how they draw the two main characters together in their journey.

Ravenfall Inn has a significant voice in HOLLOWTHORN. How did you develop the idea of the house as a character?

I love sentient objects. It’s one of my all-time favorite tropes. My second favorite is the animal companion, so cue Max. Because the house was already such a magical place, I wanted it to embody that magic. It means so much to Anna, and eventually to Colin, that I felt like it deserved its own story and voice. When I realized book 2 would be taking the main characters away from that setting, I wanted to find a way to keep it involved, and since I knew there would be mysterious ongoings at the inn while they were away, I decided to give it its own point of view to keep the reader connected.

HOLLOWTHORN is both spooky and cozy. I picture your fans reading while curled up with a cup of peppermint cocoa. What do you hope readers experience with your books?

Spooky and cozy was precisely what I was going for, and I sure hope they do exactly that! I first and foremost want this series to be a fun magical adventure for kids to enjoy, but I also hope like with all stories, that they learn something new. In the case of Hollowthorn, one of the most exciting parts of it being out in the world has been seeing non-Jewish readers react to discovering something new and deciding to learn more about Jewish folklore and magic because of reading the book.
Thank you, Kalyn!

Kalyn Josephson currently works as a Technical Writer in the tech industry, which leaves room for too many bad puns about technically being a writer. She currently lives in California with two black cats (who are more like a tiny dragon and an ever tinier owl). She is the NYT Bestselling author of the Ravenfall series, The Storm Crow duology, and This Dark Descent.

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