Karin Celestine

Have you ever been taken by surprise by an idea? A moment of wonder, a recognition of beauty, a spark of inspiration; we’ve all enjoyed the magic that comes with the unexpected. The Joy Bringers by Karin Celestine is a book of these hidden delights.


Artist and author Karin Celestine lives in a small house in Monmouth, Wales. In the garden is a shed and in the shed is another world. The world of Celestine and the Hare. It is a place where kindness, mischief and beauty help people smile. Karin is an artist and author who creates needle felted animals of charm and character, including the stars of their story books published by Graffeg.

Congratulations Karin on publishing The Joy Bringers, and thank you for answering a few questions for us recently.

Tell us a little about your background…

I have Swedish, British and Indian heritage. I also moved around the country from Shropshire to Lincolnshire, in a wide circle up to the North of Scotland, and now I am here in Monmouth, Wales which is the longest I have lived in one place. It feels like home. My Swedish mother took us to Sweden for the summers and gave me love of wildness, crafts and fed my imagination with stories of trolls and elves. I went to school in Lincolnshire and Scotland and then to University in Aberdeen. I wanted to study art and science and didn’t like that you had to choose, always being put into one of two boxes, art or science, girl or boy, this or that. I love the middle ground of everything, why can’t we be all or both. I managed to find a way to study biochemistry, forestry and history of art! I have done many jobs from being a lumberjack and postie to a teacher, and now I work from my little Shed in the garden making needle felted animals and writing stories.

What influences and memories stand out from your childhood?

My influences growing up were the books I read. I loved Pippi Longstocking and the Moomins, Paddington and any story about animals. I remember getting into trouble for staying up late reading 101 Dalmations under the covers. I had Swedish pictures of John Bauer’s trolls on my wall and those worlds of fairytale, folklore and creatures coming to life were my whole life as a child. I was sure I should have a tail and tried to sleep upside down in my bed like Pippi.  As a young child, about 7 or so, my mum would go shopping to the market on a Saturday morning. I was very shy and didn’t like people talking to me on the stalls, so my mum used to leave me in the library while she did the shopping. I don’t think you’d be allowed to leave a 7 year old on their own in the library these days, but it was utter bliss. They let me wander around and read any book I chose, not just the children’s section and I developed a love of libraries and reading there which has stuck with me all my life.



As a young person, who or what influenced you?

I was obsessed with animals and wanted to be a vet or a farmer and loved watching TV programmes about animals. I was not one of the cool kids and I never really got who was in and which bands to listen to. I remember someone asking me if I liked Hot Chocolate and I said oh yes thinking they meant the drink, not the group. I liked classical music and reading and didn’t really fit in a lot of the time but again I was saved by the library as I became a school librarian and found other kids like me where we could hang out together. I loved reading comics like The Beano and drawing.

What are your influences now?

My influences now are the natural world around me. I walk the beautiful woods around my home and the animals, trees and plants and the seasons are what inspire my work most of all. My childhood influences still linger too, like Bagpuss and The Clangers. Those elements of stories with kindness and gentleness in them.



When did you become aware of wanting to write, did any particular factors play a part?

I funnily enough didn’t really have an ambition to write. I used to tell stories about our teddies to my brother growing up, and I told stories to the children at school as a teacher about the lives of artists and about things in my life to encourage them. When I started making the animals to sell, I didn’t just say here is a mouse for sale, but I’ll make up a little story about them and what they were doing. I am left handed and my writing was scruffy at school and I struggled with spelling and grammar so I never considered myself a writer. My publishers who were doing calendars with me discussed the idea of doing books and it was only then that I thought well why not give it try! Sometimes we have dreams we don’t know we have until someone gives you a nudge in the right direction. That belief someone else puts in you that you can do something is huge. It doesn’t matter that I can’t spell or know where to put all the commas as there are editors and proof readers to help with that, so don’t let those sorts of things put you off telling your story to others.



Tell us a little about The Joy Bringers, where did the inspiration come from, and what do you hope readers will take from the story…

The Joy Bringers is part 3 of a 4 book series. They are each centred around a season and folklore and traditions that are celebrated then. This book is for Summer. It is about those moments in our day when we see a beautiful leaf or cloud and stop in our tracks. Those little small joys in our days. Where do they come from? I made a story about the joy bringers hiding the sparks of joy for others to find and that we need to be joyful to make sparks for others to find. That however difficult our days are, there are always small beauties or kindnesses to be found, a cup of tea offered, a beautiful ladybird landing on you. I hope people will take away the idea to look for those small joys in a day, to appreciate those small things because really the small things are the big things.

We talk about swimming with dolphins and sky diving but when I had cancer and wasn’t sure if I would be here or not, what I really wanted was the small things, to sit and have a cuppa with my family, feel the grass between my toes. I also want people to realise the importance of joy. Happiness is different to joy  and can be a bit too much –  we must always be happy etc, because we can’t and sadness is important too. But joy can be quiet, thoughtful, it touches our souls as well as being silly and happy.  It’s good to be joyful, silly and playful – being joyful can affect those around us, so having fun is helpful to others too.



What are your favourite reading genres, and what books are you reading at the moment?

My favourite genres are fairytale / fantasy / folklore type books . I love reading kids books too especially before I go to sleep as I can read a chapter and it isn’t too heavy and there are some amazing authors around just now. I am currently reading The Warm Hands of Ghosts by Katherine Arden (her The Bear and the Nightingale is one of my all time favourite books), Every Day Nature by Andy Beer and The Snow Girl by Sophie Anderson.




What experiences of libraries have influenced you during your lifetime?

Libraries have been my saviour so many times in my life. As a young child being left in there to read whatever I wanted while my mum went shopping, as a school kid who didn’t always fit in and was very shy, the library gave me a safe space to be and friends both in people and books. When I first had my son, we had little money and the library was so wonderful as we could go there and read and borrow armfuls of books I’d never have been available to buy. I discovered so many fantastic authors through libraries that I’d have never tried if I’d had to buy the books, and they’ve helped me with internet, advice, reference books, recipes and I used to borrow craft books to learn how to do various crafts to earn a bit of money. That sparked a career!

What suggestions do you have to encourage children and young people to read more for pleasure?

Reading for pleasure is just that. There are no right and wrongs about what we should read. My son used to love car manuals  and non-fiction. When I was a teacher, I used to give kids who said they didn’t like reading books like The Guinness Book of Records or graphic novels to read. We have this idea that reading has to be a long novel with lots of words, but it can be comics, or non-fiction or audiobooks too. Listening to stories are a great way to read books  and there are some amazing graphic novels around too. Ask your librarian to help you, they have such an amazing knowledge of books and can point you in a direction you might not have thought of. If you say I like this book, they can say ooh try this, it’s so helpful. There are no right and wrongs to reading, there are even books with no words in! One of my favourite things is to be read to, to curl up and listen to a story. Just bliss.

Give us a quote that is at the heart of your life…

“I believe in kindness. Also in mischief. Also in singing, especially when singing is not necessarily prescribed” (Mary Oliver) is one I love.                                                                                                  Kindness and Mischief is the strap line for my membership club. Kindness is an overarching theme in my books, small acts of kindness just because, so often books have a character that does something kind and then they get a reward. In mine they do something kind because we should all help each other where we can. Kindness just is. Mischief and giggles are also necessary in life I think. Kind mischief is best of all. Spread some joy to others.

The Joy Bringers will be published 23rd May by Graffeg Books.

Further information about Karin on the Celestine and the Hare website.

Read our Get to Know the Author flyer and take a look at our previous Authors of the Month writing in English.

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