Jodi McIsaac, author of the Thin Veil series discusses blending Celtic myths with the modern world.
There’s something magical about discovering an ancient belief system for the first time. When I set out to write the Thin Veil series, which is contemporary fantasy based on Celtic mythology, I had no idea what a treasure trove of stories I would uncover. I became lost in the world of great heroes, tragic love stories, mischievous spirits, and a very tenuous division between our world and the world of the fae.
In the Thin Veil series, we follow the story of Cedar, a modern-day single mother who discovers that her six-year-old daughter can create portals between places simply by opening a door. Shortly after making this discovery, the daughter disappears. This leads Cedar on a desperate search for answers—and for the child’s father, who turns out to be one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the Irish gods. He and a small group of rebels had fled to our world from a civil war in the Irish otherworld of Tír na nÓg. It’s heady stuff for Cedar who, like most of us, had never considered the possibility that these ancient myths were actually rooted in truth.
That, dear readers, is what I love so much about Celtic mythology and folklore—there are so many grey areas between myth and history that one can’t help but wonder if maybe there isn’t a grain of truth in the old tales. Take Brighid, for example—she’s the Irish goddess of fire, but also the name of one of Ireland’s most popular saints, “St. Brighid of the Ever-Living Fire. ” The saint, who lived in the fifth century, was known to keep watch over a perpetual fire at her abbey in Kildare. To this day, historians are not sure which legend came first, the goddess or the saint—or if the two aren’t perhaps the same person. Cedar first meets Brighid in Through the Door, the first Thin Veil book, and finds her own answers to this question.
My favorite example of the blurring between fact and folklore is the Stone of Destiny, which Cedar must search for in the second Thin Veil book, Into the Fire. The Stone of Destiny is a mythical treasure brought to Ireland by the Tuatha Dé Danann—but it’s left a very historical trail in its wake. It’s been known as the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Scone, and the coronation stone at Westminster Abbey. Today, you can go see it for yourself in the Crown Room at Edinburgh Castle. When Prince Charles becomes King, he will be crowned while seated on the Stone of Destiny, the treasure of the Irish gods.
In Among the Unseen, the final installment in the series, Cedar has many more mythical encounters—an ancient order of druids working at Trinity College in Dublin, the mysterious missing cover of the Book of Kells, and the seal-people of Inis Mór, to name but a few. All of these have one foot squarely in our world, and the other in the world of magic. And this is what makes writing—and reading—these Celtic-inspired books such an enchanting, captivating experience.