Author Interview with Karen Hulene Bartell

Today we welcome Karen Hulene Bartell.

Book ‘Em:  Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Writing isn’t only a way of life for me, it’s become who I am. Early mornings and weekends, I write fiction, but during the week, I work as a Senior Technical Editor/Writer in Austin, TX. Traveling is my passion, seeing and experiencing unusual places and unique facets of life—then writing about it.

Book ‘Em:  Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Spiritually uplifting, the Sacred Journey Series is about contemporary women overcoming obstacles and finding the strength to become their best selves despite poor choices.

Sacred Choices, Book I – Inspirational love story centered on self-growth, it’s written for, by, and about women who have had or are considering abortions.

Sacred Gift, Book II – Spirits are everywhere for those privileged to see, Sacred Gift crossed generations of choices, history, and religions. We all make mistakes. Some can be fixed, and others not, but our choices stay with us forever.

Lone Star Christmas: Holy Night, Book III – As December 25th nears, San Antonio prepares with twinkling lights, riverboat caroling, and frosty nights. The air is fragrant with Mexican hot chocolate and homemade tamales, but Maria encounters a darker force in the air.

Holy Water: Rule of Capture, Book IV – A spiritual chronical based on true events surrounding the 2015 Memorial Day Flood and set against a backdrop of drought, water wars, water-rights conspiracy, and record-breaking floods, Tulah must choose between love and water.

Sacred Heart: Valentine, Texas, Book V – To be released in February 2018

About independent but imperfect women, The Sacred Messenger Series draws heavily from the Native American cultures, offering stories that enchant, embrace, and explore.

Angels from Ashes: Hour of the Wolf, Book I – True love is like a ghost. Many believe in it, but few encounter it. Chloe stumbles on both but burned by romance and riddled with low self-esteem, she’s unable to recognize love when it finds her.

Christmas in Cahokia: Song of the Owl, Book II – Owl-lover, who was born on St. Cecelia’s Day, Ceci sees music as dancing notes and hears color. Be it sacred music, jazz, or the song of the owl, to her, it’s healing – it’s the voice of God.

Christmas In Catalonia – A trek through Spain becomes a life-changing journey. A daddy’s girl born on Father’s Day, Gwen lost faith in men when her father emotionally abandoned her. Through a series of divine signs, she takes the first steps on a life-long pilgrimage.

Belize Navidad – Sheer Christmas magic, Belize Navidad is a fusion of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol and O. Henry’s Gift of the Magi. Set in tropical Belize during the Christmas season, Belize Navidad warms the heart as it chills the spine.

Sovereignty of the Dragons – A thriller played against the backdrop of the Sino-American Trade Agreement and reunification of Taiwan with China, Lane is pressured into a relationship that begins a tangled web of personal, political, and clandestine activities.

International Cookbooks

Fine Filipino Food – Created from recipes collected at the crossroads of the Pacific Ocean and the South China and Sulu seas, Fine Filipino Food is a testament to the rich mix of cultures and seasonings.

The Best of Korean Cuisine – Food is the soul of each ethnic culture. Because of Korea’s similar cultural heritage with China, it would be easy to dismiss Korean cuisine as a subtle variation, but it’s unique.

The Best of Taiwanese Cuisine – A culinary journey to Taiwan with a collection of authentic recipes arranged according to holidays and seasonal celebrations.

The Best of Polish Cooking – A delightful compilation of traditional Polish fare in easy-to-use menu format, arranged to follow the seasonal cycle.

American Business English – English as a Second Language (ESL) textbook.

Book ‘Em:  Are they fiction or nonfiction?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  My books are primarily fiction. Only the earlier International cookbooks and ESL textbook are nonfiction.

Book ‘Em:  Do you have a work in progress?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Yes, two. I’m currently writing a sequel to Belize Navidad, tentatively entitled Bahamas Promise, as well as The Keys: Voice of the Turtle, Book III of the Sacred Messenger Series.

Book ‘Em:  What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Sacred Choices was the most challenging because it was as personal as it was cathartic, but it was the springboard for the Sacred Journey Series.

Book ‘Em:  What sort of research do you do for your work?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  For the background, I read books about the topics and research online, but what gives my writing an edge is that I travel to each place I write about, seeing the sights, experiencing its adventures, sampling its cuisine, and talking with the locals.

When I start a book, I never know how it will work out. Ninety percent of the time, I find the ending during my travels, either in talking with the natives or investigating the intricacies of each location to create a unique, organic conclusion.

Book ‘Em:  Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  To be honest, lately my reading is restricted to research, but in school, I was drawn to the classics.

Book ‘Em:  Was there a person who encouraged you to write?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  My husband is my greatest advocate.

Book ‘Em:  What would you say are your strengths as an author?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  I explore the challenges and issues common to many of us: fundamental choices, daddy issues, self-esteem, drug/alcohol abuse, mistakes, and life’s changes. As my characters work through their trials, confronting their challenges while promoting or defending themselves in debates, the reader experiences both “sides” of issues.

My writing is vicarious. Within the safety of their armchairs, the readers can climb mountains or pyramids, trek through Spain, fall in love in Belize, as well as confront their fears and make hard moral choices.

Book ‘Em:  How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  I write every day, usually between four and six in the morning. It’s the only time my mind is fresh enough for ideas to flow.

Book ‘Em:  Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  I see myself writing fulltime, treating my craft as a career, not as a second job to be squeezed in early mornings before work or on weekends.

Book ‘Em:  If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Write every single day. It keeps the story fresh in your mind, as it allows your imagination to work subconsciously.

Book ‘Em:  What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?

Karen Hulene Bartell:  Post an honest review in Amazon and Goodreads. Let other readers know you enjoyed the book or describe how it helped you come to terms with an issue.

Book ‘Em:  Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.

Karen Hulene Bartell:  The ollowing is an excerpt from Christmas in Cahokia: Song of the Owl, Copyright 2017 Karen Hulene Bartell, PhD:

“Come on into my father’s office,” said Ceci. “There’s a computer and printer there.”

Chloe looked around the masculine office. Dark mahogany wainscoting, oversized mahogany desk and bookcases along with plush, leather upholstered chairs, but what caught Chloe’s eye was the painting of a white Timber Wolf.

Just walking into the room, Chloe felt intimidated . . . and something else she could not quite put her finger on. A sense of foreboding. Something menacing, almost sinister. Taking a deep breath to ground herself, she tried to laugh it off. Probably just feelings of inadequacy. To cover, she gazed at the wolf painting.

“This is beautiful.” Glancing at Ceci, she asked, “Was your father fond of wolves?”

“Not really.” Ceci shook her head. “But the family name, Lupo, means Wolf in Italian.”


Ceci nodded as she created a table with columns and rows, organizing the sites they wanted to see into the days. After she printed out the several pages, she started rummaging through drawers.

“I know there’s a stapler here somewhere.” When she had gone through all the drawers, she wrinkled her brow. “There’s got to be one.” Looking again, she pulled the drawers out as far as she could and then groped toward the backs, where she could not see. Suddenly, she flinched, yelped, and yanked out her hand.

“What?” Chloe looked at her shocked expression.

Her eyes narrowed, Ceci peered at the desk drawer. “Something ‘gave.’”

“What do you mean?”

“I felt toward the back of the drawer, and it moved.”

“Can we pull the drawer out of the desk, so we can see the whole thing?” Chloe helped her lift the heavy drawer up and out. Then they placed it on top of the desk, beneath the lamp.

“This is what I mean.” Ceci took a deep breath. “I haven’t gone through my father’s things yet. I’ve been putting it off, dreading it.”

Chloe gave her a sympathetic smile. “I can imagine.” Then she noticed the drawer’s space ratio. “That’s weird.”

“What is?”

Chloe pointed to the length of the drawer and to the shorter space that held its contents. She touched its back, and it moved. “It has a false back.” She pushed harder, and it sprang open, revealing a secret compartment.

“Whoa!” Her eyes wide, Ceci looked from the drawer to Chloe and back. Then she stood the drawer on end, letting the contents at the back slide forward.

Out fell a necklace, a pendent of three owls sitting on a perch, suspended from a chain. Setting down the drawer, Ceci picked up the necklace and studied it.

“Looks like vintage jewelry,” Chloe assessed it, “maybe from the fifties.”

Ceci nodded, turning it this way and that, letting the light catch it from all sides. “Do you think this is costume jewelry or the real thing?” She glanced at Chloe. “Rhinestones or diamonds?”

Shaking her head, Chloe shrugged. “No clue. Why don’t you have it appraised? I’ll bet they could even date it for you.” She looked from the necklace to Ceci. “Was it your mother’s?”

I don’t ever recall seeing her wear it . . .” She undid the clasp and put it on. “How’s it look?”

“Seems made for you. Not too big, not too petite, it fits you perfectly.”

Ceci’s half smile faded as her eyes narrowed. “Wonder why it was hidden in here.”

Chloe wracked her brain. “Maybe it was a gift for you? Maybe your father was keeping it hidden until your birthday?”

Ceci squinted as if thinking it over. “I doubt it. My birthday’s not till November.” She gave a faint smile. “November twenty-second, Saint Cecilia’s Feast Day, hence my name, Cecilia, Ceci.”

“Isn’t she the patron saint of music?”

Her eyes glowing, Ceci nodded.

“So do you take after her?” Chloe watched a smile light her face. “Do you like music?”

“Yeah, I’ve always loved music. I wanted to major in it, be a singer.”

“But you became a veterinarian. Why?”

“My father.” Grimacing, Ceci sighed. “He said music wasn’t practical. He wanted me to enter the medical field, follow in his footsteps.” Then she stared into space, seeming lost in thought.

“So . . .”

“So we compromised. Besides music, I love animals, especially owls, so instead of becoming a doctor, I became an animal doctor.” She gave Chloe a wry grin. “And Sundays, I sing in the church choir.”

Chloe grinned, recalling the conversation from the night before. “Louie sure thinks you’re fond of owls.”

“I’ve always had a special affinity for them. As long as I can recall.” Her eyelids fluttering, she gave Chloe a shy smile. “I don’t know what it is, but I seem to have a knack for spotting them. Owls blend so easily into their background that most people miss them. But even when their mottled feathers meld into the trees’ brown bark, I have a sixth sense for spotting them.” Chuckling, she shook her head. “I don’t know if they follow me or what, but I see them wherever I go.”

Remembering the previous summer, Chloe nodded. “I experienced that once. I kept running into wolf images, and then I saw a pack of wolves . . . by coincidence.” She arched her brow as she met Ceci’s eyes. “But I don’t believe in coincidences.”

“Neither do I.” Wearing a wistful smile, Ceci touched the necklace. “Maybe my father did get this for me, after all.” Then she glanced at the clock. “Forget about the stapler. We’d better get going if we don’t want to miss the owl and raptor program.”

“Wait a minute.” Chloe noticed something peeking out from the back compartment. “What’s this?”

Frowning, Ceci pulled out a hand-scribbled note: Vol 87 Issue 1. “Wonder what that means.”

Chloe searched her mind. “A favorite book? Maybe it’s a message or a clue that leads to a message.”

Ceci looked at the walls lined with shelf upon shelf of leather-bound books. “I’d have to search every title. That could take days, weeks.” Sighing, she glanced down at the drawer. “There’s something else.” Catching a corner, she slid out the faded photo of a classic Lincoln Town Car. “Wonder what that’s doing in here.” She handed it to Chloe. “Think there’s any connection?”

The moment Chloe touched it, a barrage of emotions and images hurtled through her mind. Lust. A nightclub. A woman singing on stage. Love. A man sitting at a bar. Desire. Someone watching, lurking. Suspicion. Jealousy. Hostility. Hatred. Chloe dropped the photo as a shudder passed through her.

“What’s wrong?” Ceci retrieved the photo.

Chloe exhaled, trying to rid herself of the negative feelings and impressions. She glanced at Ceci sheepishly. “Sometimes, when I touch things, I get impressions, images. It’s as if emotions linger, are somehow attached to objects, and I sense them.”


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