A is for:
All Souls Church
All Souls Church is based upon an actual Church in the village of Bolton Percy near York in North Yorkshire, England. The church is actually called All Saints but it was felt that the name should be changed for the story in order not to confuse or dismay the local residents. The real church was built in 1411 by the then rector, Thomas Parker who died before seeing it consecrated in 1423.
The character Thomas Whittle, the priest with a secret, is a nod to the man who built the church, but there is no further resemblance between them.
The church is a very important location in Blackfeather. The story begins with Kate sitting down to her genealogical research in the archives when she is disturbed by a noise from the church and goes to investigate. Here she finds the box that sets off a whole chain of events that changes her life.
By the end of the story she has come full circle, back to the church, where she must perform the most courageous act of her life.
If you want to read more about the history of the real All Saints church follow the links below.
For the purpose of Blackfeather it is assumed that all human souls receive a guardian angel upon their first incarnation on earth. These angels are merely there to watch over the individual and whisper guidance to them. They are never seen by humans, under normal circumstances, and cannot affect the freewill choices of their charges. When Ashrafel is expelled from heaven he is “trapped” in a semi-human body, but still retains several angelic attributes – for instance, he can “hide” from plain sight, disappear and reappear at will, teleport over great distances in an instant and move with incredible speed.
He can also use his aura to calm or confuse, or plant suggestions in peoples’ minds, for example when he makes the crowds move when he takes Kate to the Festival of Angels, or gets a table in a crowded bar. Whilst he would describe himself as a “Fallen Angel,” his crime is not so great that he has been sent to Hell; he has a chance to redeem himself. There are other angel’s that walk the earth who are not fallen and who are here for a purpose, who also inhabit semi-human bodies. These are The Watchers – Ashrafel’s best friend is a Watcher. They have black wings, not because they are bad, but to distinguish them from any other angel.
Lucifer’s demons have black wings too but they are tipped with red, a permanent reminder of the human blood they have shed throughout the centuries. Lucifer’s wings are completely red!
Ashrafel (Ash), Kate’s guardian angel, has been with her since her first incarnation as Catherine Whittle in the 15th century. An angel has infinite patience and unconditional love for his charge, but Ashrafel overstepped the mark when he appeared to Catherine in the church and became her friend. His actions set in motion the events that led to Catherine’s death and the five hundred year cycle of karmic debt played out through Catherine’s subsequent lifetimes.
As a result he is expelled from Heaven and forced to observe each lifetime, helpless to interfere or save her, waiting until such time as she can find a way to return him to Heaven.
His love for Kate grows through each incarnation, from innocent friendship to a passion so great he is willing to go to hell for her …
B is for….
Bertie is the pet Jack Russell terrier that belongs to Evelyn Markham. His running away from her house and into the park is the catalyst for Evelyn and Ashrafel’s first meeting. As Evelyn’s faithful companion he earns the hatred of her brother Sebastian and is cruelly dispatched. Though we never find out exactly what Sebastian has done with Bertie, it can be assumed that he has used his blood in some evil occult ritual.
When Catherine is burnt at the stake, Ashrafel gathers her ashes, places them in a linen bag and keeps them in an ornate box made from silver. He has made this with his own hands after begging a silversmith to teach him the trade in exchange for a year’s work.
The box is decorated with Catherine’s favourite flower, the daisy, and at the centre of each flower, Ashrafel places a small diamond for every life she has lived. When Thomas Whittle builds his grand church they conspire to inter Catherine’s ashes in a cavity in the floor of the nave in secret because the manner of her death and the accusation of being a Witch forbids burial on holy ground.
When Kate finds the box through Ashrafel’s brother’s meddling, she counts twelve diamonds in total that have a diamond. In other words, she has had twelve previous lives. If she were to have died in this one without resolving the situation, Ashrafel would have added one more, making thirteen in total.
The box now resides in Kate’s bedroom, on her dressing table, as a reminder of Ash and because she feels a duty to take care of it for him.
Brian Thomas is Kate’s friend and colleague. He works with her at Sharpe’s genealogists and Probate researchers as the senior of the four researchers employed there. At work he is smartly dressed in shirt and tie, which serve to hide his tattoos from prospective clients. He loves nothing better than long rides on his motorcycle and a night out at his favourite rock club. What his friends don’t know is that he has another hobby, which leads him into the occult.
Brian’s interest in spiritual matters includes attending sessions with a local psychic and healer named Selena Moon, who runs past life regression and therapy sessions in the flat above her New Age Bookshop.
When Kate starts having dreams of the past he introduces her to Selena.
Brian is attracted to Kate, but it is unrequited and his jealousy of Ash becomes a sore point between them.
C is for
Catherine Whittle, 1465 – 1479, the first incarnation of Kate. Catherine Whittle, orphan, brought up by a man she believes to be her uncle, the priest of All Soul’s Church. However, when he becomes aware that she is consorting with an angel, his caring attitude changes to one of obsession and terror. When he can’t get her to betray the angel she loves he first tortures her then accuses her of witchcraft and burns her at the stake. She dies without ever knowing that he is her father.
Charlotte (untold story)
Lady Charlotte Farrow: born 1662 died 1684 aged 22. Charlotte is a feisty young woman who craves freedom from the restraints of marriage and the restrictions on women of her time. She pursues this freedom by becoming a woman highwayman and leading a secret double life. Unfortunately, she robs the wrong stagecoach and gets more than she bargained for.
D is for
Kate’s first inkling that something is very wrong about the new man in her life is when she follows him down a dark alley and finds him breaking the neck of what she perceives to be a man. It is only when he wraps her in his aura and calms her down that he reveals his true identity to her and explains that the man he killed was, in fact, a demon. By breaking the demon’s neck, Ash severs the soul from the semi-human body and sends the demon back to hell before it can complete its mission. You can find out more by reading Angel Lore 2
The dagger, Malak Rozeach, which means Angel killer in the Hebrew language,is the only weapon in existence that can kill an angel in its angelic form. If the angel is in human form, like Ash or one of the Watchers, then the dagger releases the angel’s soul from the body first. The dagger must be used again if the angel is to be killed outright.
The dagger is a legendary weapon, belonging to Lucifer before his fall and was once a sword which he used in the War in Heaven to fight against Michael and the other angels who were still loyal to God. When Michael defeated Lucifer the sword fell from Lucifer’s grip towards Earth. It landed with such force that the landmass split apart into what became the continents. From there it sank beneath the ocean and was thought to be lost forever in the fiery depths of the earth’s core.
However, after Lucifer’s fall, he devoted many years to its recovery, always working in secret so the Watcher’s had no idea of his plan. When he found it, he disguised it as a dagger, inscribed it with dangerous magical symbols and waited for the right moment to put it to use.
When Ashrafel revealed himself to Catherine Whittle, Lucifer knew this was his moment to put his plan into action. He sent his servant to offer immortality to Thomas Whittle knowing he would not be able to resist. However, he did not count on Catherine’s resolve to protect Ashrafel, sacrificing her own life to save him. This meant the dagger, irrevocably caught up in their karmic cycle, could no longer be used for any other purpose than killing Ashrafel, either by Thomas Whittle in his subsequent incarnations or Catherine in hers. The outcome of which very much depended on the corruption of Catherine or the redemption and forgiveness of Thomas and Ashrafel.
Lucifer could only watch from the shadows and wait to see the eventual outcome before the dagger would once more be his.
E is for…
Evelyn Markham 1850 – 1873.
Evelyn is the daughter of Robert and Ellen Markham. Her father made his fortune in shipbuilding in Liverpool and when the city began the development of a large, high class housing venture surrounding the city’s most beautiful park, he decided to purchase one of the first houses to be built. Shortly after moving his family into the house, he and his wife travelled to New York on one of his ships, The City of Boston. However, on the return journey, tragedy struck and the ship, crew and all the passengers disappeared without trace.
Poor Evelyn was devastated, but her brother Sebastian promised to care for her. He inherited his father’s house and money and began to make good on his promise. Little did they know that Sebastian was the reincarnation of the 15thcentury priest who was Catherine’s father and when the dagger and book came into Sebastian’s possession his attentions towards Evelyn became sordid and unwelcome.
Evelyn met Ashrafel in Sefton Park after chasing her beloved Jack Russell dog, Bertie – named after Prince Albert – into the park. She fell in love with him, but believed he had abandoned her when Sebastian abducted him.
Years of poisoning by her brother had left her weak and compliant, but her love for Ash gave her the strength to make one last stand. Driven insane by torture and repeated rape by her brother she decided there was only one way to save herself.
Even after discovering that Ash had not left her, but had lied to her about his true identity she would not turn against him and her last act was to save him by taking her own life with the dagger.
F is for
When Ashrafel first reveals himself to Catherine, his feathers are” evanescent and wondrous to behold”. They are white, but after his fall, he is” horrified by their transformation” because they have become black. A sign that he is no longer a part of Heaven. The watchers wings are also black, not because they have fallen but because while on earth they are free to partake in human activity, including sex.
When Kate releases Ash’s soul from his semi-human form, his wings revert back to their original white status.
Kate is also left a black feather with the note in the envelope on her desk. This is a sign of who has sent her the note. It is Ash’s brother and friend.
Festival of Angels
Every year in December, York City hosts a festival of Angels where tourists follow a trail of ice sculptures dotted about the town. This is a real event.
When Ash meets Kate outside the New Age Bookshop after her tarot card reading, it is no accident. He knows that her dabbling in occult activities will draw the reincarnated Thomas Whittle to her like a moth to flame and in order to protect her he causes certain supernatural events of his own.
After getting her out of the shop he invites her to go along to the festival with him and they spend the day in each other’s company, getting to know each other. Kate is at first reluctant as she is worried her fear of crowds and confined spaces, a cross over from her previous lives, will spoil it for him, but he assures her that he will look after her and as they negotiate the crowds they seem to part miraculously, to allow them through.
At the end of the day, Ash uses his charms to get them a table in a crowded pub, buying Kate dinner. She starts to get suspicious when she notices he neither eats nor drinks and avoids all her questions about him. Afterwards, she sees him kill a demon and makes a quick getaway.
G is for
After finishing school and college, Kate decides to attend the University of York to get a degree in history, she follows that with a Masters in Archives Management and lands a job with Sharpe’s Genealogists and Probate Researchers. Her job entails researching the archives for client’s ancestors and finding living relatives of deceased individuals who have left money behind but no will.
She is conducting research into the family of David Markham when she discovers the box in All Soul’s Church. She has no idea of the connection between the tree she is working on and her own past lives, until her work on this family tree leads her and Ash to Liverpool and the house of Evelyn Markham.
H is for
Heaven and Hell
Heaven and Hell are Christian concepts of the afterlife. Where a person goes to after they die depends on how they have lived their lives. Heaven is for good people, hell is for bad. Within Blackfeather, Heaven is the place where Ash comes from, where all angels live and Hell is ruled by Lucifer who fell from Heaven along with his followers after the War in Heaven.
If Ash is killed by the dagger, his soul will be handed over to Lucifer to be tortured for all eternity. If the cycle is broken then Ash can return to Heaven once more.
I is for
Isabel 1542 – 1566
Isabel is Kate’s second incarnation. Taken in as a baby after her mother died in childbirth by the local midwife and wise woman, Agnes Parry, she lives in Chelmsford, in Essex. This was the first town to suffer witch trials under the Witchcraft act of 1566, brought in by Elizabeth I.
Agnes has passed on all her knowledge of herbs and medicines so that Isabel can take over from her after her death. It is a tradition passed from mother to daughter for many generations. Agnes is very old when the Witch Finder comes to town, the book and dagger in his possession, looking for the angel he needs for the ritual. He already knows of Agnes and uses her to get to Isabel, bargaining Agnes’s life for Ash.
Isabel refuses to give him what he wants and tries to outsmart him by using the law against him. Whilst Isabel is victorious over the Witch Finder she is not so lucky with Agnes as the strain of being jailed takes its toll.
Isabel also pays with her life when she contracts a disease from a child she has treated and dies less than a month after the Witch Finder is hung.
Ash passes the time by listening to a collection of songs that remind him of his love for Kate throughout the years. It is purple. His last loving act for Kate is to leave her his ipod as a Christmas present.
A playlist of Ash’s songs can be found here
J is for…
The journal is Ash’s diary. A brown leather book in which he records all of Kate’s past lives. He began writing it the diary after Catherine’s death because otherwise, there would have been no record of her life at all. It is also a record of his actions and mistakes. Originally written in angelic script, so that anyone finding it would be unable to read it, the diary was magically translated by Zacharael when Kate passed him in the nightclub. Ash believes that this and Zach’s involvement in leading Kate to find the diary will have repercussions that either he or Zach will have to pay for.
K is for…
Kate Lowry 1979 – present. Kate is the thirteenth incarnation of Catherine Whittle. She lives in York and was born in the same village as Catherine and even attended the church that Thomas Whittle built. She discovers the box with Catherine’s ashes and Ash’s journal whilst doing research in the church and is compelled to take it home.
Shortly afterwards she meets Ash and falls in love. It is up to her to figure out a way to send him home to heaven.
When Thomas kills Catherine in the 15th Century, it sets in motion a cycle of events that continue through life after life. She is reborn as Isabel and he as the Witch Finder. In that lifetime Catherine gets her revenge when Isabel accuses the Witch Finder of Witchcraft and has him hung. In subsequent lives they are destined to come together with Ash as a helpless observer, until one or the other ends it once and for all, either by one side achieving their quest for immortality or the other freeing Ash’s soul and sending him back to heaven. In each life they have so far only managed to end up killing each other or themselves through tragic circumstances.
L is for…
Ash and Kate decide to travel to Liverpool for two reasons. One, the family tree Kate is working on is connected to her through a previous life (Evelyn), this makes Ash believe that her client may be Thomas Whittle reincarnated and be the one with the dagger.
They have also been sent a small package with Brian’s earring in, this serves to tell them that their enemy knows who they are, but also tricks them into thinking their enemy is Kate’s client. Kate, whilst not enamoured of Brian, wishes him no harm and feels obliged to rescue him from their enemy.
See also Evelyn, Sebastian and Park
Whilst working in the York Archives, held in the library, Kate sees Ash and decides to follow him. Chasing him across a road she is almost run over and he rescues her.
M is for…
Montey’s Rock Club in York is the setting for Kate and Ash’s first meeting in person.
This is the Hebrew name for the dagger. See D is for Dagger.
This book, published in 16th Century, written by two German monks, Sprenger and Kramer was used to torture and terrify women across Europe for many years during the witch craze or “burning times”. Many men and children were also accused of witchcraft and murdered by religious zealots.
N is for…
New Age Bookshop
Every morning Kate passes the New Age Bookshop on her way to work. She’s never really noticed it before, but one morning she spots the strange “man in black” looking through its window. When she takes a peek at the display she’s astonished to find a collection of books on witchcraft and angels. Later, she is invited by Brian to attend a group regression there and sees the reflection of Catherine Whittle in the mirror. The group is spooked by the appearance of a tall black, man shaped shadow which Selena Moon, the bookshop’s owner believes is Kate’s guardian angel.
A couple of days later Kate has her Tarot cards read by Selena in the upstairs flat and the electrics are blown. Selena throws Kate out and she “bumps into” Ash. He later admits to causing the mysterious events in order to stop Kate meddling in things she should leave well alone.
O is for…
Ornamental Cherry Tree
Ash brings the ornamental cherry tree into blossom in the depth of Winter by using his angelic power. He hopes to cheer Kate up with the act and they share a tender moment as he dances with her and sings his favourite song to her.
P is for…
Peter Sharp is Kate’s boss and the owner of Sharpe’s Genealogy and Probate Researcher’s. He is the reincarnation of Thomas Whittle and the one who is hunting Ash and Kate. He is in possession of the dagger and book and kidnaps Brian in order to get to Kate.
Q is for…
The theme of the book is the quest which Kate has to undergo in order to free Ash and herself from the 500 year old curse of karmic debt. The quest begins for Ash in 1479, but for Kate it begins when she finds the casket and diary in the floor of the church.
R is for…
Reincarnation is the rebirth of a person’s soul from one lifetime to another.
Rosaling Woodhall is Kate’s third incarnation. Her tale can be read in the Untold Stories Collection .
S is for…
Sarah Cox is Kate’s fourth incarnation. Her tale can be read in the Untold Stories Collection.
In the Victorian period part of Liverpool was undergoing a wonderful transformation.
A beautiful park was being built a short distance from the city centre and brand new villas for the well to do families of the era were springing up around the edges of the park.
The park began life in 1867 when the Liverpool Corporation bought the land from the Earl of Sefton. They decided to hold a competition to see who could come up with the best design and it was a French architect, Edouard Andre and a local architect, Lewis Hornblower, who won with their French style design.
They included a cricket ground, sheep and deer parks and a boating lake in their plan and the park was opened, in all its Victorian splendour, in 1872
When Ash first meets Evelyn, in the Fairy Glen under the Iron Bridge in 1873, this had only just been added and it was a popular meeting place for the Victorians who promenaded in the park at that time. Some of the houses were still under construction and wouldn’t be finished until 1890, but others, like Evelyn and Sebastian’s were already being snapped up to be lived in.
You can see a map of the park athttp://www.nelashley.com/2012/11/blackfeather-locations-liverpool.html. Evelyn and Sebastian’s house is the very last one on the row after the cricket ground and just below the semi-circle next to that row is where the iron bridge and fairy glen are situated. This is where Ash would stand to watch over Evelyn, close to her, but shielded from view by the trees that surround the grounds of the house.
Today, many of the houses have been turned into flats or hotels, but you can still get a feel for the Victorian period as you walk around the area and the Palm House, which was added to the park in 1896 has been renovated and restored in recent years. I think Evelyn would have loved to spend time here looking at the exotic plants from all over the world, but of course she never saw it in her lifetime.
Sharpe’s Genealogist’s and Probate Researchers is run and owned by Peter Sharpe. Kate has worked here for a year after leaving university. It is located at the top of Stonegate, an ancient, cobbled street in York.
Stonegate Devil (The)
The Stonegate Devil is a carved figure situated under the eaves of an old shop in Stonegate, York. You can see a picture of him at http://pinterest.com/nelashleyauthor/blackfeather-characters-places-visual-inspiration/
Mentioned only briefly in the book, but you can find out more about snickelways in the book – A Walk Through The Snickelways of York by Mark W. Jones.
These tiny narrow streets are a cross between an alley a snicket and a ginnel.
Selena Moon, real name Hannah Ross, is Brian’s psychic friend and owner of the New Age Bookshop. Neither Kate nor Brian, nor Selena realise it, but Selena is the reincarnation of Agnes Parry, Isabel’s stepmother, almost hung for witchcraft. Hence her enduring interest in all things spiritual and esoteric.
T is for…
Thomas Whittle, Catherine’s secret father and priest of Bolton Percy.
Therese Russell is Kate’s sixth incarnation. You can read her story in Blackfeather Untold Stories Collection
U is for…
Untold Stories are a collection of short stories featuring Kate’s other past lives not mentioned in the book.
V is for…
Veronique (1908 – 1914) is a six year old girl who lives in the village of Obourg in Belgium with her parents. She is killed by German troops when Ash tries to rescue her from Oberst Amsel. She is one of the reincarnations of Catherine Whittle and is the life Kate has before she is born.
W is for...
The Witch Finder is not named in the book, but he is the reincarnation of Thomas Whittle. He uses the villagers of Chelmsford and in particular Agnes Parry, Isabel’s stepmother, to persuade Isabel to turn Ash over. She refuses and turns the tables on him, accusing him of witchcraft In return and getting him hung. Chelmsford in Essex was the scene of real Witch Trials in 1566. Master Gerard was Queen Elizabeth the firsts attorney and presided over the trials. You can find out more about them here http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/elizabethan-witchcraft-and-witches.htm
The Watchers have always been associated with a group of angels who were sent by God to observe humans. They fell in love with human women and procreated with them, resulting in the birth of the Nephilim. In Blackfeather, however, the Watchers are angels (1000 in all) who walk the earth in semi human form thwarting the attempts of Lucifer to do wrong. To all intents and purposes they are human and look no different to humans except for their unusual tallness, beauty and mesmerising eyes. They have several supernatural abilities, including telepathy, teleportation, incredible speed, flying, and others. Whilst on earth they are allowed to indulge in all human past times, including sexual intercourse. To return to Heaven a Watcher must sacrifice it’s own life for that of a human who would die because of Lucifer’s interference. There are always 1000 of them on earth, each one being replaced by another when they return to heaven.
X is for…
X Marks The Spot
X marks the place where Evelyn and Ash first meet. The red arrow poimts to Evelyn’s house.
Y is for…
Most of the novel is set in the beautiful city of York, an ancient city in the North of England.
Z is for…
Zacharael, Ash’s ultra cool angelic brother. He is one of the Watchers. You can read more about him in Immortal.el
Zach, as he is known to his friends, is Ash’s best friend, brother and the angel who helps him the most. He guided Kate to the journal in the floor of the church, against Ash’s wishes, but no one is sure whether Zach was acting under his own volition or under orders from God. He also transformed the diary from angelic script into English so Kate could read it. He achieved this when she bumped into him in the nightclub, reaching into her bag and touching the diary without her ever noticing. He pops up throughout the novel, in Mons, in York and in some of the untold stories. He cares deeply for Ash and affectionately calls him “little bro”.
Zach has been on Earth longer than any other Watcher and has no intention of returning to Heaven as he enjoys his time on earth so much. He loves the attention of mortals and uses the Festival of Angels and the themed “Angels and Demons night at Montey’s to show off his wings.
After Ash returns to Heaven he rescues Brian from Peter’s house and prompts him to help Kate then he erases Brian’s memories of the event. We will see a lot more of Zach in the sequel – Immortal.