Monday, 21 April 2014

Guest Post: Urban Fantasy versus Paranormal Romance by Ally Shields

Hello Everyone, Please give a warn welcome back to the lovely Ally Shields!

Often I have wondered about the difference between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. When I was just a reader (pre-blogger), I didn't really give it much thought until I started writing reviews and had to categorise the genre. 

Is that Book an Urban Fantasy 
or a Paranormal Romance?

There is so much crossover between these genres that it's often hard to tell the difference, but there are actually a few rules to help you decide.

Paranormal romance: First of all, it has to meet the criteria for a romance i.e. (1) the romantic line (whether sweet, erotic or somewhere in between) is predominant, and (2) the story has an HEA (Happily Ever After) ending.

The addition of the paranormal label is justified only when the supernatural elements are an integral part of the story, not a minor addon. The paranormal must change the plot in some way. This usually means that at least one of the main characters is—or becomes—a supernatural being with powers that affect the story's ending.

Urban Fantasy: The criteria for this genre are more restrictive in some ways. The setting must be a contemporary, human city (real or fictional). The fantasy element is predominant, and the fantasy characters must interact with the contemporary environment. This is often depicted by clashes between the two cultures.

There is no requirement for romance, although much of today's urban fantasy, especially those written by women, has a strong romantic line. Other books may verge on horror.

Books in a series have added to the confusion. Authors can cross the genre lines from book to book, resulting in various labels by booksellers. The Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton can be found under urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and  horror. Personally I'd leave these under urban fantasy, although I concede that Jean Claude is a terrific romantic figure in most of the books.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Twilight series, which also meets the criteria of urban fantasy, is best categorized as paranormal romance. The author focused on the romantic element throughout the trilogy.

I normally classify my Guardian Witch series as urban fantasy for two reasons:

   (1) book one does not meet each of the paranormal romance criteria. Not to be a spoiler, I'll leave it to you to figure out what's missing :)

   (2) the mystery/adventure storyline is equally prominent with the romantic line in most of the books.

Now that I've told you all this, does it really matter? Not a bit! Not unless you want to write a book or you collect book trivia! What matters is whether the author has engaged you in the lives of people you want to read about. It takes a little sprinkle of magic.

I'm always looking for that next great read. What urban fantasy or paranormal romance authors would you suggest for my TBR pile?


My reviews of Ally's books:

Author Bio: I write urban fantasy/supernatural mysteries. The first three novels in the series have been released and Blood and Fire is scheduled for the fall of 2013. I am currently working hard on book 5. When not writing, I read multiple genres--urban fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, romance, and I love to travel--anywhere, anytime. I live in the Midwest with my miniature pinscher Ranger within driving distance of the Mississippi River that is the setting for my books.

Author Links: Goodreads l Twitter l website


So what do you think? Do you prefer UF or PNR? 
Any great recommendations you can give us? 



  1. That was a really great post, Ally! I agree that it's hard to classify a book in ONLY one genre, but yes, the truth is that it doesn't really matter. :)

    1. Thanks Franny! This post really helped clear a few things up for me too :) You are right, it doesn't matter as long as you enjoy the book!

  2. ah yes the difference between UF and PNR. At first it's difficult to really know. In France they choose a word bit-lit and we have in it UF, PNR, paranormal chick-lit... I really hate that because it's so different. But when we really know UF and PNR are so different. Even if I love UF series, I'm a little more mixed when it's about PNR. But some are really good too. I agree with you and your definition. In any case PNR is more about the relationship and UF more about the plot.

    1. Indeed! As long as you enjoy the book that is all that matters :) I have grown to love UF more and more lately. But PNR is still my go-to genre. Thanks for the visit Melliane :)

  3. Great post. I just categorize something by tags and labels. So something can be both a Paranormal of any sort, and it can also be tagged romance, it can be tagged fantasy, etc. Though I find that UF has more action and adventure than a typical PNR, that doesn't always have to be the case. Like the guest post said, there are a lot of genre-blending books.

    1. Thanks Julie :) I agree, I don't always know what to tag the book as since there is so much genre blending.

  4. Oooh... it is great to get the real definitions of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. I sort of figured it was that way, but it's nice to see it in words! Great post ladies!

    Naomi @ Nomi’s Paranormal Palace

    1. Thanks Naomi :) It is great to see a proper classification.

  5. I've always wondered about the differences, and this was a great idea for a post! Would you guys classify the Sookie Stackhouse series as urban fantasy? I've always thought of it as urban fantasy but am still not 100% sure. If you haven't read the series, I recommend it. I really like it. I haven't read the last two books yet. I'm definitely checking out Ally's books. :)

    1. Me too.. thats why I asked the awesome Ally Shields to help out and clarify a few things!!I haven't read the Sookie books yet but I just got the first book in the series when I went to the book exchange this month. I hope you give Ally's books a shot, she really is a talented writer. I just finished book of (Blood & Fire). Thanks for the visit Jennifer :)


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