Krista V. Johansen
Krista V. (K.V.) Johansen was born 1968 in Kingston, Ontario. She is an author of fantasy novels, children’s stories, and literary criticism (Contemporary Author 207). She grew up in “the Old Sproule House” in the village of Westbrook (“About the Author”). She currently resides in Sackville, NB, the place from which her husband comes (Email interview).
Johansen is the daughter of Peter and Noreen Johansen. Her father is a biology professor. She studied English and history at Mount Allison University, receiving a BA in 1990. In 1991, she attended the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto where she received an MA in 1992. She attended McMaster University and received another MA in English in 1994. While at McMaster she wrote a thesis on Layamon’s Brut, the medieval poem that recounts the history of England.
Her writing career began with the Torrie Quest series, which now numbers four novels. In that series, readers follow the adventures of Torrie in a magical world called Erythroth. The Torrie Quest series has earned Johansen several awards and award nominations, including a nomination of Torrie and the Pirate Queen for the Silver Birch Award (2006) and Diamond Willow Award (2006). Torrie and the Pirate Queen was also the recipient of the Canadian Authors’ Association's Lilla Stirling Award in 2006. Torrie and the Fire Bird was selected as one of the top ten children’s books of 2006 by the Ontario Library Association. Reviewer Eva Wilson recommends this book as an exciting story for young readers (153).
The Torrie Quest series displays Johansen’s background in medieval history, as she writes about goblins, dryads, and griffins. These magical creatures seem to come out of history and onto the pages of her books. In Torrie and the Snake-Prince, for example, she describes exactly what a griffin looks like:
Griffins aren’t exactly Old Things, but they aren’t ordinary animals either. They’re the size of lions, and their bodies and back legs belong to a lion, but their head and front legs are those of a giant eagle. They have wings, too, and ears like a lynx, and they speak in human voices—which doesn’t stop them from eating humans once in a while, although griffins don’t hunt them like dragons do. (73)
Johansen is also known for a series of illustrated children’s books called The Pippin and Mabel series. The stories in this series contain life lessons for children. In the story Pippin Takes a Bath, Pippin learns that there are worse things than having to take a bath and Mable learns to love Pippin even when she is muddy. These books also feature watercolour illustrations that anchor the story’s realism for children.
The Warlocks of Talverdin is yet another series from Johansen, but this one is written for young adults. The first book of four in the series is Nightwalker, which won the 2008 Ann Connor Brimer Award as well as being shortlisted for the 2008/09 Snow Willow Award. Nightwalker contains a strong female character called Annot who rescues Maury (the protagonist) from the philosopher’s fire; this can be seen as a contradiction of the Victorianist female stereotypes that are commonly misattributed to fantasy literature. Karyn Huenemann suggests that this series of books creates a fascinating, original fantasy world that excites readers (38). Janet Johnson agrees, saying that Johansen creates dynamic characters in each novel and that the series’ characters are consistently developed throughout.
Johansen has also written the Cassandra Virus series. This futuristic science fiction series contains three books. This series is not set in the fantasy world of the Warlocks of Talverdin series, but has high tech elements as well as secret agencies and spies.
Johansen has also written short stories for adults, namely the Storyteller and Other Tales and The Serpent Bride. Her most recent publication is Blackdog, a fantasy novel that is aimed at an adult audience. This book has already been shortlisted for the 2012 Sunburst Award (“News and Reviews”).
Johansen claims that her greatest influence is Tolkien, attributing to him her fascination with language and her understanding of what makes a coherent narrative. She writes the following about Tolkien in Quests and Kingdoms: A Grown Up’s Guide to Children’s Fantasy Literature:
Without The Lord of the Rings as an inspiration, an example of excellence in prose, imagination depth, and internal integrity, the fantasy genre would most likely never have reached the literary quality it has now, in the works of some authors, achieved. Tolkien set a high standard which others have since striven to reach. (118)
Reviewer David Ward sees the lessons she has learned from Tolkien, the lessons of narrative and temporal credibility: “Typical of Johansen, the writing fits the world: quest, magic, forests and castles are all described with a rhythm and vocabulary that bring the reader close to this Dark Ages fantastical environment” (19).
In a video interview posted on her website, Johansen discusses how the secondary world in the Torrie Quest novels is loosely based on settings in southern Ontario and parts of New Brunswick.
Many of Johansen’s books are published by Sybertooth Inc., a publishing house located in Sackville, NB, where she currently resides.
Lisa Schellenberg, Winter 2012
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
Johansen, K.V. The Black Box. Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2011.
---. Blackdog. Amherst, NY: Pyr Publishing, 2011.
---. The Cassandra Virus. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2006.
---. The Drone War: A Cassandra Virus Novel. Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2007.
---. Email interview. 6 Oct. 2012.
---. “Interview with K.V. Johansen, Part 1.” Sybertooth Inc. 2011
---. Nightwalker. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2007.
---. Pippin and Pudding. Illus. Bernice Lum. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2001.
---. Pippin and the Bones. Illus. Bernice Lum. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2000.
---. Pippin Takes a Bath. Illus. Bernice Lum. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1999.
---. Quests and Kingdoms: A Grown-Up's Guide to Children's Fantasy Literature. Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2005.
---. The Serpent Bride: Stories From Medieval Danish Ballads. Saskatoon, SK: Thistledown Press, 1998.
---. The Shadow Road. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2010.
---. The Storyteller and Other Tales. Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2008.
---. Torrie and the Dragon. Illus. Dean Bloomfield. Montreal, QC: Roussan, 1997.
---. Torrie & the Firebird. Illus. Christine Delezenne. Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2006.
---. Torrie & the Pirate-Queen. Illus. Christine Delezenne. Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2005.
---. Torrie & the Snake-Prince. Illus. Christine Delezenne.Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
---. Treason in Eswy. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2008.
---. Warden of Greyrock. Victoria, BC: Orca Book Publishers, 2009.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
“About the Author.” K.V. Johansen. 2012
“Authors and Illustrators: Featured Author: K.V. Johansen.” Orca Book Publishers Canada. Orca Book Publishers. 2012
Cohen, Marina. “The Drone War: A Cassandra Virus Novel.” CM: An Electronic Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People 14.3 (2007): n.pag.
Huenemann, K. “The Shadow Road.” Rev. of Book 4 of Warlocks of Talverdin, by K.V Johansen. Resource Links 15.38 (2010): 38.
Johnson, Janet M. “Warden of Greyrock.” Rev. of Book 3 of Warlocks of Talverdin, by K.V Johansen. CM: An Electronic Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People 15.14 (2009): n.pag.
“K.V Johansen.” Contemporary Authors: New Revision Series. Ed. Amanda Sams. Vol. 171. Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co., 1981. 207-209.
McGillis, Roderick. “Beyond Window Dressing? Canadian Children's Fantasy at the Millennium.” The Lion and the Unicorn 32.3 (2008): 360-364.
“News and Reviews” K.V. Johansen. 2011
Ward, David. “Torrie & the Snake-Prince.” Resource Links13.15 (2007): 19.
Wilson, Eva. “The Cassandra Virus.” Resource Links 4.14 (2007): 153.