Shallow art does not equal good theology. Let me say that again.

Shallow art does not equal good theology.

If art isn’t authentic to the human experience, it’s not art.

There. I said it.


This topic can be…touchy, to say the least. For Christians, anyway.

I think we’re scared…

I’ve avoided it, to be honest. I thought to myself, “If someone brings it up, then talk about it. But don’t open that Pandora’s Box. It’s not worth it.” People have brought it up in my inner circle. But I can tell that they, like me, weren’t sure what to say about it. Perhaps they couldn’t make eye contact. Or perhaps they toed the sand and danced around the subject with shrugs and incoherent grunts. And I think maybe I know why…

We’re scared. Or maybe we’re chickens. But we’re afraid to say what we really think. For whatever reasons (which I am positive there are many, but that’s for another blog post), we think that if people knew how we really feel, they’d think less of us. Judge us. Run screaming from our heretical ways.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point. Because I think the bottom line is, as a whole, Christians don’t make authentic art anymore. At least not in the mainstream. (Before you get your panties in a wad, let me clarify: I know this is not a universal rule of thumb. I am saying that it is generally true, with few exceptions.)

Hear me out.

What happened to us?

When I look at the Sistine Chapel, when I listen to Handel’s Messiah, when I read Lewis, or Spurgeon, or heck even Tolkien, I am forced to wonder what happened to modern art. I am forced to wonder how we traded The Screwtape Letters for some of the Christian fiction drivel you can pick up on Amazon.

I am Christian. I make no bones about that. But neither do I shove it down your throat. You’re free to have your own thoughts and beliefs, just as I am free to have mine. Just as I am free to infuse mine into my writing and art. Which I do. If you’ve read even a chapter of one of my books, you can tell that my faith is integral to who I am.

But I refuse—REFUSE—to let the ideals of what my faith should produce dictate the content of what my art conveys. Or to put it more bluntly: just because I’m a Christian does not mean I am going to write G-rated books. Just because I believe in a perfect God does not mean I am going to write perfect characters or idyllic stories.

Listen, I’ve read a lot of modern Christian fiction. It’s terrible. (Granted, there is some that is not, but it’s a SHORT list.) And I mean that in the most sincere way. It’s weak. Ineffective. Laughably shallow. It focuses on faith as if it were this thing to master. As if belief in the Almighty were a checklist for the day.

  • Bible reading? Check.
  • Kindness to a widow? Check.
  • Prayer at dinner? Check.
  • Church on Sunday? Check, check.

I think life is a little more nuanced than that, don’t you? And quite frankly, I think we–the humans God created–are a little more colorful than that.

We’re all flawed.

We’re flawed in profound ways. Profound. We’re addicts. We’re liars. We’re thieves. We’re miscreants. We’re whores. We’re oath breakers and failures. We’re cheaters and swindlers. We’re murderers and haters. We’re bigots and shunners. We’re people. In every flawed color. We’re people. Humans.

And I think it’s high time Christians stop pretending like we’re not.

Conversely, I read a lot of mainstream fiction that also conveys a lie. It purports this ideal that self is the ultimate prize. That if we can learn to love ourselves, we’ll have it figured out. That if we can find our inner strength, we’ll have arrived.

I don’t know about you, but my strength fails me on a continual basis. And the moment I start thinking I’ve got my sh*t together, it usually hits the fan. In that vein, I think the majority of modern mainstream art lies to us, too.

So what, then?

When I set out to write The Promised One, it was not with the intention of writing Christian fantasy, or even anything particularly meaningful. It was simply a færytale love story. It was honestly just a labor of love that morphed into something much deeper. It became an opening into another world–a world in need of redemption much like ours. As I wrote the love story I wanted to read, it hit me: love here on earth is meant to be a shadow and portrait of a greater Love. And it is often through our love stories that we learn, begin to understand, or even find the greater Love.

But as the characters came to life on those pages, I wondered what people would think of them. Of the seventeen year old girl who slept with her boyfriend and carried his child. Of the prince who was more interested in flirting with the ladies than living up to his responsibilities. Of the orphan who hated the idea of the divine. Of the mother who would stop at nothing to get her way, even at the expense of her family. Of the foul-mouthed brother whose temper flared at the drop of a hat.

But much more so, I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the language, violence, debauchery, murder, incest, betrayal, dark magic, and more in my books. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of writing a couple who waited until their wedding night to have sex. I wondered what my Christian friends would think of the protagonists who were sleeping around or ambiguous characters who murdered and lied and played a game for the sake of their own gain. I wondered what my non-Christian friends would think of the scenes with Providence himself showing up.

In other words, I wondered where my story fit.

A Square Peg…

Nowhere, really.

It’s too Christian to be mainstream, and much too mainstream to be Christian.

And when I first queried it to publishers, I wasn’t sure who would pick it up. I knew a Christian publisher wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole as long as the characters remained messy and foul-mouthed and *gasp* not virgins. And I knew a mainstream publisher would want to white-wash the more powerful moments with the Creator, and the general notion of monotheism as an ideal.

I was unwilling to compromise on either front. When I was offered a publishing deal from a mainstream publisher, I eventually turned it down for those very reasons.

The Adventure of the Blue Ocean

So I decided to venture out into unknown waters. I decided to put this book out there and see what would happen. I decided to try something different: to present people as they are, not as they should be. And to present the concept of God divorced from the box Christendom has put him in over the centuries. To write a book with authentically flawed characters who discover the need for a perfect Creator through those flaws, not in spite of them. I took the risk of offending my Christian friends with my very much NOT G-rated content, in the hopes that maybe they could identify with my characters. I took the risk of offending my non-Christian friends with a blatantly spiritual story of the need for redemption, in the hopes that they might identify with my characters.

Because that’s just it. I think it is precisely through our flaws–and the flaws of those around us–that we find out our need for something more. It is in the imperfections that we go in pursuit of perfection.

Authenticity Matters

I want to make something clear: by saying that shallow art does not good theology make, I am not implying that I have somehow found the formula for good art. I am not saying that my books are better, or deeper, or more profound by any means.

But I am saying that my books are authentic. You will not find characters who fit the bill of Christian idealism. Nor will you find characters who make good choices very often, if ever. But you will find characters who are searching for that ideal. Characters who are aware, even if only intrinsically, of their need for something more.

That’s the kind of art that doesn’t happen too often in this world.

Oh yes, there are those who make it. U2 comes to mind–raw music that explores the mystery of the divine from the flawed and inadequate human perspective. I think Crowder scratches that surface, too. (Listen to Praise the Lord by Crowder if you’re looking for some profoundly raw lyrics.)

I used to shake You like an 8-ball
I used to shoot You like a gun
I used to hold You like a hammer
Try to nail down everyone
I used to keep You in a steeple
Used to bind You in a Book
I used to take You like prescription
Without knowing what I took

~Praise the Lord, Crowder (American Prodigal)

As for authors, I will confess I haven’t read much modern Christian fiction like that. I’ve read more Christian non-fiction that ventures down that path. Blue Like Jazz comes to mind. Think what you will of his theology, Donald Miller at least explores the possibility that the god we’ve fashioned over the centuries just might be a tad bit bigger than the limitations we’ve put on him. I tend to agree. Wholeheartedly.

Exploring Authenticity in My Art

I think that’s why I wrote The Promised One, and the subsequent books. To explore the idea of the Creator outside the bounds of religion. Outside the bounds of preconceptions. Outside the bounds of limitation. To let imperfect people stumble upon him and then discover–as I think we all do on some level–a keen need for him.

I put this out there in the hope that maybe there are more of us. I think there are. I think perhaps there’s a whole coven of us, hidden in the caves, wishing that the bubble of modern Christian culture would burst. Wishing that we offered a little more steak and a little less breastmilk.

And at the same time, I think there’s a whole world out there wondering why self has let them down time and again. If there is something more. Something bigger. Deeper. Wider. Brighter. Better.

Hint: There is.

We all have them. There is no one exempt from their trappings. They haunt us. They chase us. They inhibit us. Sometimes—SOMETIMES—they even inspire us.


Bad habits. Quirks. Temperaments. Attitudes. Flaws. Call them what you will, we all have them. And as a writer, I look to exploit them. Because let’s face it: perfect characters are, well… BORING.

Like our dear Prince Ferryl with his impulsivity and idealism. While those traits can be a good thing, they can also be a very bad thing for a man who is to inherit a kingdom. That idealism often comes back to haunt him when the world doesn’t turn as he expected. And he is often faced with the worry of what is not going on much more than what is. As a result, Ferryl can be temperamental and even irrational. And do things like, you know, leave Elizabeth behind because he’s so angry with her for just being herself. *ahem*

“I think you should to stay here, Elizabeth. I think you should get to know your mother, to find out what your life was like, your history, your family. Haravelle is your home. We both know that. And I think…” he said, tripping on his own emotion now. “I think it is best if you stay behind.”

~The Purloined Prophecy, Chapter 44

And Elizabeth. Stubborn, logical, insufferably practical Elizabeth. There must always be a reason. There must always be an answer. Even when there is not. And that need for logic drives her every thought—ad nauseum. So when the world doens’t fit in a box, when the answers don’t make sense on paper, she is left to pick up the pieces of her logical mind and figure out how to cope. And she has a tendency to push people away—the ones she loves most—on that unending quest for answers.

She knew he was right. It was a logical, practical solution. For her to get to know her mother, for her to find out who she was and how she had grown up. To search for the memories that evaded her.

But most importantly, for her to find a life away from him.

Because it could never work as long as they were together. As long as they were together, they would always want each other, always love each other, always torture each other with a dream that could never be.

And for the first time in her life, Elizabeth hated every damned logical, reasonable word out of his mouth.

~The Purloined Prophecy, Chapter 44

Ever met anyone like them?

I sure have. I think I’m both of them at times. What about you?

It’s funny how art can be so cathartic. Because as I write these characters, I begin to realize profundities about myself: that maybe it’s our imperfections that not only make us interesting, but serve a greater purpose. A divine purpose. Maybe it’s our imperfections that serve to show us a Truth we might not have found otherwise.

Isn’t that what happened to Ferryl and Elizabeth? Didn’t Ferryl’s impulsivity and idealism help him realize that he would fight—and die—for Elizabeth? And didn’t that love for her help him realize that it was perhaps a part of a bigger plan, a divine purpose for both of them?

And what about Elizabeth? She wasn’t wrong about Ferryl—he had obligations to his kingdom that could not be ignored. But none of those obligations precluded his heart. And at the end of the day, that’s what he would choose. What he would always choose. And isn’t that okay?

I think imperfections are what lead us to the truth. I think our imperfections, though not always easy or even fun, can often be the best thing for us—that ever present reminder that we’re not God. And we never had to be.

And thank God for that.



Hi friends! Today I am sharing a guest post from the blog, The Arrow and the Song, which just so happens to be the blog of my editor, Arielle Bailey.

This was one of my favorite interviews ever, simply because the questions are so good. I think you’ll agree. Arielle is quite imaginative (part of why I love working with her). And yes, dinosaurs are really dragons. Dragons are dinosaurs. Whatever. You know I’m right.

Check out the interview below!

From The Arrow and the Song:

I had the privilege of editing this book and helping Morgan polish it for release.  If you like prophecies, realistic love stories, fantasy wars and politics, and a good villain against which the heroes can fight, you should check out The Chalam Faerytales!

Welcome Morgan!

Describe your book’s aesthetic in three words and/or a graphic.
Poetic Epic Færytale

What was the very first spark for this story?
Wow. That’s a difficult question… If I’m being completely honest, I think the book sparked in me when I was a kid. I remember from the time I was tiny, I would lay outside in my backyard, looking up at the sky and wondering if God had made other worlds. And if he had, if he would give them a similar story to ours. Would he redeem them the way he was redeeming us? Even as a kid, I figured the answer was probably yes. And from then on, I have had stories floating in my mind—stories of other worlds and other people. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize that I was a storyteller until well into adulthood. I just thought that if anyone knew the things floating around in my mind, they’d call me insane. Turns out I am insane—I’m a writer! Ha!

If you could invent a sub-genre to classify this book, what would you call it?
Hmmmm…. It’s probably Spiritual Romantic Epic Classic. Yeah. I like that.

What music did you listen to while writing it?  Are there any songs that go to particular chapters or characters?
As a singer/songwriter myself, I have a soft spot for the genre. So I listen to a lot of folksy, ethereal, under-produced artists who write their own stuff. They get bonus points if they play the piano. My favorite right now is RHODES. He’s a British singer/songwriter with a voice like butter. I think I took to him because he sort of reminds me of Ferryl. His music is deeply romantic but clever and thoughtful. It’s ethereal in all the right ways. He has quite a few songs that inspired a lot of scenes in my books, but ones that come to mind first are ‘Wishes’, ‘The Lakes’, ‘What If Love’, and ‘Crash’.

Do you have a favorite character, and if so, why?
Can I have more than one? *wink* I think my favorites are a tie between Titus, Michael, and a character you haven’t met yet named Hania. (You’ll meet her in the next book but sufficient to say, they call her a lioness for a reason. And I LOVE her.) Titus is my favorite because he’s so conflicted. He doesn’t know who he is yet. But he knows he’s not who he should be. I love his journey. And, having the privilege of knowing what’s going to happen to him (#AuthorPrivileges), his story is one of my favorites.

But Michael is another favorite. And I think it’s because he’s so nauseatingly selfless. He reminds me of my husband in that regard. He’s one of those people that would give you the shirt off of his back. But he’s flawed, too. And he’s got scars he hasn’t worked through yet. If I’m being honest, I think both of them are in my top favorites because I hadn’t planned on any of them. This story was birthed through Ferryl’s and Elizabeth’s eyes, so the secondary characters that became central characters were a surprise to me. I think that is honestly one of the most rewarding things about being a storyteller—the characters can really surprise you. And they feel like your own children in some ways.

Which character do you identify with the most?
This is a tough one for me, because I think there is probably a little bit of me in each of the characters. If there is a character I’d hang out with on weekends, it’s probably Hania (again, you haven’t met her yet but she’s just…. GREAT). If there’s a character I feel like I’d go to for advice, it’s Elizabeth, hands down. If there is a character that I would be thrilled to have show up slightly intoxicated at family parties so that he can say highly inappropriate things at all the wrong times, it’s Derwin. And if there is a character that I would hate but also be slightly jealous of her style and personality, it’s Meria. (Yes, I love the villain. She’s delightfully horrible.)

What was your favorite part to write and why?
I’m going to answer this the only way I can: by saying what has been my favorite to write of what you’ve read so far because… if I said what has been my favorite to write of the series so far, there would be major spoilers. (Again, #AuthorPrivileges) So, of books one and two, my favorite scene to write was Ferryl on the mountain. Largely inspired by Moses’ encounter with the burning bush in the book of Exodus, this scene gave me chills as I wrote it. I loved the challenge of trying to explain immortal, divine Light. I loved the challenge of giving God a personality. And I loved seeing it all through Ferryl’s eyes. For me personally, I think God is all of the things Ferryl encountered and more: light, music, fire, eternity, galaxies, heat, joy. I think creation is a shadow and portrait of the Creator. So to try to convey that magnitude with letters and words and phrases… it was daunting. But it was also quite cathartic and romantic for me. I’ve had a lot of readers tell me that was their favorite scene, too.

Did you have a LEAST favorite part to write, and if so, what?
I did NOT like writing any scene where Ferryl and Elizabeth fought. It was difficult to give them problems because I wanted to cradle them in my arms and keep them safe from all harm. (Again, they feel like my kids in a lot of ways.) But it has been a central tenet of these books to write love for what it really is—the valleys and the mountaintops. The highs and the lows. So I didn’t want to portray one of those we-never-have-problems-because-we’re-in-love couples. So I let them fail. I let them get nasty with one another. I let them say things they regretted. And I hated every minute of it.

What scene/s did you love writing that DIDN’T make it into the final draft?
Hahahaha, okay, you’re going to hate me for this, but when I wrote the first draft of The Purloined Prophecy, Lord Adam was originally intended to be a new love interest for Elizabeth. I thought it might be fun to give Ferryl a little challenge. I eventually changed that thread because of who Lord Adam became, and because of what I knew he would have to do in the rest of the books. But originally, there was a scene were he kissed Elizabeth. It was my subtle little nod to George Lucas and Star Wars because (SPOILER AHEAD….) of them being family. I thought it would be a funny little nugget to have for Derwin to make fun of Elizabeth for unknowingly making out with her cousin. BUT…. I ended up changing Lord Adam’s entire persona from being someone Elizabeth might be attracted to, to someone Elizabeth knew was up to no good. Because that will become tantamount in later books. So the kissing scene got nixed. (Plus I realized that even if she couldn’t be with Ferryl, it would take Elizabeth a lot longer than a few days or weeks to move on to another man.)

Will you share three of your favorite quotes from the book?
Ooooooh, YES. Gladly!

“I know who holds your leash, Prince Derwin.” smirked King Aaron, sipping again of his wine. “Just as I know you happen to like it that way.”
– Chapter 48, The Purloined Prophecy (I love this because I love Derwin. He’s a grumpy cuss and there is only one person in the world who has his number. And he happens to be married to her.)

“Providence was… He was…
Beyond anything Ferryl could put into words. His light. His color. The radiant glory and power emanating from him like a tangible wave of heat and power and infinity. Eternity. Future and past. The book and the pen that wrote it. The song and the notes that composed it. The canvas and the brush that painted it. Fury. Splendor. Fire. Wonder.”
– Chapter 49, The Purloined Prophecy (I love this quote because of what I mentioned before: the challenge of trying to convey who Providence is in mere words.)

“Maybe I need you, yes. But maybe… Maybe you need me, too.
“Because the truth, Elizabeth, sometimes it’s black and white—as black and white as the halls of Benalle Palace.
“But sometimes, Elizabeth… Sometimes the truth is as nuanced, as colorful as the glittering halls of Chesedelle. And it requires something more of us. Something beyond logic, beyond reason. Sometimes the truth requires…”
“Faith,” she interrupted softly, tears lining her eyes.
“Yes,” he nodded. “Faith. And I think the fact that it requires both faith and logic is what makes it truth at all. I think the fact that it’s both unchanging and depthless is what makes it formidable, eternal.”
– Chapter 52, The Purloined Prophecy (This. This sums up the mystery of my faith. It’s both black & white and as nuanced as a glittering crystal. It is the enigmatic marriage of tangible and intangible. And I think love was given to us to help us understand that, even if only just a little.)

Are there any hidden easter eggs in your book that we should look out for?
Only about a million. Every prophecy, of course. They will all matter. And some of them… well, some of them will be left for you to decide how they will work. The moths. Oh, I can’t wait for you to learn about the moths. And well, I cannot give all of them away because where would the fun be in that? But sufficient to say that there is a LOT more to Michael’s story. And you already know it, you just don’t realize it yet.

How did writing this book help you grow as an author?
I think looking at the world through the eyes of so many different characters has made me a better person. So often in real life I will interact with someone who reminds me of one of my characters. And so I take a moment to listen longer. I make a point to absorb and retain. I think I’ve become a better listener and a better friend. And perhaps those reasons began as selfish character research. But it has taught me to slow down, to soak in, and to appreciate human nature in all its varied forms.

What’s your favorite book?  Did it influence this story in any way?
That’s like asking me what is my favorite star in the sky. GEEZ. Okay, I have several go-tos that I read over and over. I absolutely LOVE Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. I make a point to read that one about once a year. I also LOVE The Princess Bride by William Goldman and the entire Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. Of course these books influenced mine. Of course! How could they not? I think all art influences art. I think all life influences art. But in particular, I love how the story of Christ is represented in such a tangible way in Redeeming Love. I love that, again as I said before, a love story teaches us about the Creator’s own heart. Yes, that book is beautiful.

And as for The Princess Bride? The book is witty and clever and quick and yet still sweet and poignant and deeply romantic. I think that had to have influenced me in some ways. I did not set out to write a particular genre. I set out to try to be authentic and write authentic people, with a healthy sprinkling of magic. People who are deep and broken and scarred, but are still funny and clever and witty. People who have many layers, like we do. So of course The Princess Bride influenced that. It’s a masterpiece of light-hearted fairy tale meets profound peek into human nature. I love every morsel of it.

What’s next for you as a writer?
I’m deep in the throes of writing this series. As of now, I have written the first five books of the series and have started writing the sixth. I have eight planned out so far. But I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more in there. Only time will tell. I haven’t allowed myself to think past this series yet because I’m a bit of a *squirrel* kind of person when it comes to creativity.

BUT… as I write these books, I am also simultaneously working on writing, composing and recording a companion soundtrack, with both songs and scores influenced by the story and characters. I don’t have a definitive release date set for it yet, but you can at least get a sneak peek of one of the songs on the trailer for The Promised One here: (I wrote, arranged, and performed the music for this, and the piece is lovingly called Ferryl’s Song.)

Do you have a favorite dinosaur?  If so, what?
Bahahahahahaaha #NonSequiturAlert
Okay ummmm, peg me as one of those people who firmly believes dragons are dinosaurs. Fight me. I don’t really care about real-life dinosaurs, except perhaps Littlefoot (color me a kid of the ’80s). But give me dragons all day. So yes, my favorite dinosaur is a dragon. Elliott, to be precise. Pete’s dragon. He’s perfect. You’re welcome. And while we’re on this dragon vein, I also happen to love Abraxos, Manon’s mount in the Throne of Glass series, though technically he’s a wyvern, which is an armless dragon. Which is really a dinosaur. #Science

Thank you for stopping by, Morgan!  It was delightful to hear about behind the scenes of this book and series.

Maybe you noticed it… maybe not. But in The Promised One, there are a WHOLE LOT of Hebrew transliterations. Pretty much every proper name, including all the places, provinces, towns, castles, kingdoms, plus all the character names (except a few — more on that in a bit) are Hebrew in origin.

What’s with that?

There’s a pretty simple explanation, actually. The book is an allegory of the Old Testament. (Well the first four books, to be precise. And yes, you guessed it, the books after that will be an allegory of the New Testament. You’re welcome.)

So I spent quite a while researching ancient Hebraic folklore, traditions, fare, culture, even currencies. I took some liberties, of course. I mean, it’s fantasy, kids. But in general, most everything you read is based on the ancient Hebrew culture. So of course, all the names had to be Hebrew.

And let me just tell you… finding a non-ridiculous transliteration spelling of some of the Hebrew words I wanted to use was… challenging. It’s a guttural language, to say the least. So as with some of the tradition and folklore, I took some liberties with spelling too. But it’s so cool to know that every name has meaning, and everything is rooted in the culture that gave us the Bible.

So without further ado, here are some of the more popular proper names in The Promised One, and their meanings (and pronunciations, because I’m generous like that).


Navah (nah-VAAH) — Hebrew; means “home”

Midvar (MID-vahr) — Hebrew; means “wilderness”

Haravelle (HAH-ruh-vell) — Hebrew origin: HAR, means “mountains”

Benalle (beh-NALL) — Hebrew; means “wisdom”


Ferryl (FEH-rill) — Irish*; means “brave one”

Elizabeth (ee-LIZ-uh-beth) — Hebrew; means “promise of God” (hint, hint)

Delaney (de-LAY-nee) — Gaelic*; means “from the black river”

Michael (MY-kull) — Hebrew; means “which man is like God”

Meria (muh-RY-uh) — Hebrew; means “rebellions one” (Ha! I love this!)

Aiken (AY-kinn) — Hebrew; means “made from oak trees”

Erel (EH-rill) — Hebrew; means “hero”

Bedell (buh-DELL) — French*; means “messenger”

Derrick (DEH-rick) — Germanic*; means “rich or powerful ruler of all people”


Chalam (CHAH-lumm) — Hebrew; means “dream”

*There were just some names that no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a Hebrew transliteration or name that fit their personality. And sometimes, if I found the word, it did not an eloquent name make. So I took some liberties from other cultures to find just the right names. Although I must admit to you that when it came to the name Ferryl, I just liked it. It was perfect. Sorry, not sorry.


I’m not very good at drawing people. Ask anyone who has asked me for art and they’ll tell you… So this is your official disclaimer that this is merely my labor of love, by no means my crowning glory. Ha! But I needed to see Prince Ferryl and Elizabeth. I needed to bring them to life. So, my friends, I give you to you my OCs, in this piece I’m lovingly calling Dreamers.

P.S.: Did you know that “chalam” is Hebrew for dream? Yes, that’s a chalam tree behind them. They shared a chalam… they shared a dream, after all. *sigh*

All images © Morgan G Farris. All rights reserved.