{Story Diary} Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur | A Genre-Defying Gothic Ancestry Family Saga Epic

Jul 12, 2021

folklorn by angela mi young hur

Folklorn is one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far. If you've been following the blog or me on twitter, you've probably noticed my screaming into the void about Folklorn for months now, and today I am finally sharing why it's a must-read (sans spoilers)! 

Read on to learn about the Korean myths, themes, and more in this spellbinding and genre-defying gothic ancestry epic family saga. Even if you're not a spec-fic reader, you might enjoy this just for the ghost friend and Korean myths.

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur
Speculative Fiction, Mythology / Folklore, Asian Lit
April 27, 2021 from Erewhon

A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families.

Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she's put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she's run from all her life. But it isn't long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last.

Years ago, Elsa's now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.

When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance.

★ Praises for Folkorn

"Ghost story, family saga, parable, feminist reimagined myth: Angela Mi Young Hur’s hugely ambitious Folklorn is a spellbinding shape-shifter of a novel that tackles questions of race, culture, and history head-on, exploring the blurry boundaries between past and present, fact and fantasy, and personal and cultural—or cosmic." —Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere

“Folklorn is a work of capacious, original imagination: part supernatural mystery, part immigrant family story. Hur’s mixing and melding of genres is an inventive, elegant means of illuminating the dualities of diasporic experience, as well as a testament to the essential role of stories in understanding our identities.” —Peter Ho Davies, author of The Fortunes and A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself

"With enviable ambition and swagger, Folklorn tosses us from one shimmering setting to another: Antarctic research station, Korean spa, Scandinavian island, hipster neighborhood in Stockholm, auto body shop in Southern California. Exploring our genetic and traumatic inheritances, Angela Hur weaves gorgeous Korean fables through a woman’s messy, international search for redemption and connection. This novel is brash, defiant and ultimately full of yearning." —Chia-Chia Lin, author of The Unpassing

“A complex meditation on intergenerational trauma…. The honest look at prickly Elsa’s internalized racism is ambitious but often brutal in its unflinching execution…. This thought-provoking work will appeal to SFF fans who like their talk of particle physics side by side with fox spirits and fairy tales.” —Publishers Weekly

Folklorn in a Gist (a la Readerly)


[side note: add me on Readerly @emptykingdom]

Setting / Places


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Stockholm, Sweden

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Los Angeles, California, U.S.

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Korean Myths

Heo Hwang-Ok

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In Korean legends, Heo Hwang-Ok sailed from India to South Korea to meet King Suro whom she prophesized in a dream and then later married around 48BCE, making her the Queen of Gaya Kingdom in Korea. According to 13th century collections of legends and texts called the Samguk Yusa Chronicle, she was a princess of the Ayuta Kingdom, a distant country.

Fun fact: the author Angela is an ancestress of Heo Hwang-Ok, whom was the forebearer of the Hur family clan. How cool is that!?

Learn more about the fascinating legend of Queen Heo Hwang-Ok:

Themes / Tropes

☾ Ghosts
☾ Women in science
☾ Ancestral curses
☾ Gothic ancestry epic
☾ Family saga
☾ Past and present narratives
☾ Complex familial bonds and secrets
☾ Suppressed magic
☾ Immigrant/diaspora experience
☾ Vengeance
☾ Healing
☾ Redemption


Korean American adoptee MC
Korean American/Swedish-based author
☀ Parent with mental illness (schizophrenia) 

Content / Trigger Warnings

➤ Intergenerational trauma
➤ Death of parent
➤ Grief
➤ Abusive parent (mentioned/referenced)
➤ Discussions of domestic violence
➤ Discussions of war (Korean War) and racism

"My mother always spoke Korean to me, but when telling her stories, she didn't sound like herself."

--Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn

"We have full right to these stories of our ancestors, even more so because we are of the diaspora. These tales--like us--have traveled far across time and space, to be remade and understood in a new light."

--Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn

"Madness is like a muscle though—if you don’t use it, you lose it."

--Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn

Comparative Titles


The Vegetarian by Han Kang
The Quiet Is Loud by Samantha Garner
Little Gods by Meng jin
Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Angela Hur received a BA in English Literature from Harvard and an MFA in Creative Writing from Notre Dame, where she won the Sparks Fellowship and the Sparks Prize, a post-graduate fellowship. Her debut The Queens of K-Town was published by MacAdam/Cage in 2007. It has been assigned in Korean-American literature classes at Stanford, UC Berkeley, University of British Columbia, and University of Seoul.

Folklorn was chosen by Kelly Link for a Tin House novel mentorship through the Tin House Summer Workshop, where Hur also studied with Alexander Chee and Mat Johnson, and later with Peter Ho Davies at the Napa Valley Writers Conference.

Hur has taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, in Seoul, Korea. She’s also taught for Writopia, a U.S. non-profit providing creative writing workshops for children and teens. While living in Stockholm, Sweden, she’s worked as a Staff Editor for SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. She is currently living in Stockholm, with her husband and children.

Let's chat! Have you read Folklorn yet?
Do you plan on reading it if you haven't yet?
Let me know in the comments below!

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  1. Such a complete and detailed post, love it!!!!! This is the first time I've heard of this book and it sounds amazing, I'll add it to my TBR! 😍❤️✨

    1. Thank you, Sofi! So glad you enjoyed this post and added a book onto your tbr. I hope you enjoy Folklorn. 😊


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