Education: Carlow University, Pittsburgh, PA, and St. Patrick's Carlow College, Ireland, joint M.F.A.; Antioch University, M.A.
Office—DeSales University, 2755 Station Ave., Center Valley, PA 18034. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer and educator. DeSales University, Center Valley, PA, assistant professor. Also has worked as a newspaper stringer and as a magazine and newspaper columnist.
I Am of Irelaunde: A Novel of Patrick and Osian, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Daughter of Ireland, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Bright Sword of Ireland, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Song of Ireland, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Juilene Osborne-McKnight is a writer whose novels are steeped in Celtic lore. In an interview with Ilysa Magnus in Solander: The Magazine of the Historical Novel Society, the author explained the origins of her interest in Celtic lore, noting: "I came to Celtic lore by a unique serendipitous occurrence. I was in my early twenties and was teaching Arthurian mythology in my high school Brit Lit class. I came across a throwaway line in a research book which said that of course the Arthurian code of behavior of the Knights of the Round Table was based upon the Fenian code of Ireland in the third century. From that point on, it was Alice down the rabbit hole."
Her first novel to retell a mystical Irish folktale is I Am of Irelaunde: A Novel of Patrick and Osian. Narrated by Patrick, a former slave, and by a dead warrior named Osian, the novel tells of Patrick's role in Celtic history and legend. Magnus noted that "rather than drawing a caricature of a universally recognizable, saintly Patrick, Juilene dares to focus on his humanity and human-ness—his foibles, his failings, his loss of faith." Magnus also called I Am of Irelaunde a "marvel of storytelling and a stunning debut."
In her next novel, Daughter of Ireland, Osborne-McKnight features Aislinn ni Sorar, a druid priestess and visionary in ancient Ireland with a mysterious past. Aislinn sees that there is a new spirit entering the land who will remake this world, as foretold long ago. Aislinn will play a central role in this change as she faces the choice of giving up everything that she loves to help the Irish people find the true God or turn to the dark forces to keep the old ways. The author includes historical background notes, a bibliography, and a glossary of Celtic terms, emphasizing the novel's historical roots. "Osborne-McKnight is a born storyteller, and she weaves an engrossing tale once again," wrote Carie Morrison for the Rambles Web site. Morrison also commented, "Anyone familiar with Celtic myth will find that wonderful feeling of familiarity resounding in this book." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "has spun a spellbinding fable of love and loyalty."
The beautiful and bold warrior Medb of Connacht and her attractive but meek daughter Finnabair are the protagonists in Bright Sword of Ireland. Medb is ruthless and will use anyone and anything to reach her goals. When Medb goes too far, however, and starts destroying lives, it is young Finnabair, neither a warrior nor a lover, who gathers herself and the entire country of Ireland to oppose her mother. "Gentle, peace-loving Finnabair … makes a beguiling narrator," wrote a Publishers Weekly contributor, who also called the novel "warm, playful and eloquent." In another Booklist review, Flanagan commented that Osborne-McKnight "displays … an abiding respect and love for the richly textured mythology of ancient Ireland."
The author's next novel, Song of Ireland, was called a "well-researched historical fantasy" by a Publishers Weekly contributor. In the novel, the Celts land on the shore of their long-sought enchanted isle, ancient Eire. Soon after establishing a settlement, they realize that they are not alone; the island is already inhabited by the Danu, or "little people," who are shrouded in mystery and resonate with power. The novel revolves around the two nations trying to establish an agreement to share the island and the cultural conflicts that develop. In her review of Song of Ireland, Flanagan noted that the author is successful in retelling Ireland's legends in a way "that enhance[s] the charm and define[s] the character of the Irish nation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of Daughter of Ireland, p. 993; January 1, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of Bright Sword of Ireland, p. 825; April 15, 2006, Margaret Flanagan, review of Song of Ireland, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, January 5, 2004, review of Bright Sword of Ireland, p. 38; January 2, 2006, review of Song of Ireland, p. 37.
Solander: The Magazine of the Historical Novel Society, November, 2004, Ilysa Magnus, "The Lure of Celtic Lore," interview with author, pp. 26-31.
DeSales University Web site,http://www.desales.edu/ (June 18, 2008), faculty profile of author.
Favorite PASTimes,http://favoritepastimes.blogspot.com/ (August 9, 2006), "Interview with Juilene Osborne-McKnight."
Greenman Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (June 18, 2008), Faith Cormier, review of Daughter of Ireland.
Juilene Osborne-McKnight Home Page,http://www.jmcknight.com (June 18, 2008).
Rambles,http://www.rambles.net/ (April 6, 2003), Carie Morrison, review of Daughter of Ireland.