Monday, January 20, 2014

The Darker Side of Mermaids and SON OF A MERMAID by Katie O'Sullivan

So. You might ask, “Why mermaids? What’s so dark about mermaids?” And while you are asking this question, most of you are picturing the Disney version of Ariel in your mind. Sweet, innocent, always smiling. Go ahead, admit it. She is the most famous mermaid of our times.

But mermaids aren’t so one-dimensional. After all, remember the sea witch, Ursula? Okay, so perhaps she’s not technically a mermaid…but she proves that even in the Disney version, there are dark things under the sea.

Throughout history, there have always been tales of mermaids. There are cave paintings of evil mermaids causing storms and killing fishermen. Seriously. Over the centuries, mermaids have been closely associated with shipwrecks, drownings, hurricanes and floods. Think of the syrens of Greek mythology, luring sailors to their deaths on the rocky shores.

Just a few hundred years ago, Christopher Columbus famously reported sighting mermaids in the Caribbean, writing in his journal that they weren’t as beautiful as legend proclaimed. And just a few years ago, Johnny Depp befriended those same Caribbean mermaids as Jack Sparrow, in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Remember how evil those mermaids could be?

Even today, mermaids in Mexico, La Sirenas, are usually depicted as scary creatures. I recently found these lovelies in Los Cabos.

So what does this have to do with my story, or my son of a mermaid, Shea MacNamara? He gets to find out the hard way that mermaids aren’t all sweetness and light. But then again, neither is he.

Shea grew up in Oklahoma far away from any oceans, never even thinking about mermaids. Raised by his emotionally distant father, he never knew the mom who disappeared when he was a baby. It’s not that he had an unhappy childhood, but it was pretty lonely. Since Dad won’t talk about it, Shea always figured it’d been a surprise pregnancy, and that his dad had gotten “stuck” raising the unwanted child.

Shea never understood why his dad always urged him to keep his odd abilities secret, or why he keeps him isolated on the farm. He never quite “fit in” with his classmates, but couldn’t figure out why. When a freak tornado destroys his farm and claims his father, Shea is utterly alone.

Talk about bleak.

Then he meets a mysterious girl – a girl with secrets, and who knows secrets about him. She introduces him to an undersea world which he never knew existed, and suddenly all the odd abilities he’s developed over the years make total sense. He also discovers firsthand that not all mermaids are beautiful and sweet, and that bullies and evil exist everywhere, not just in ninth grade.

Son of a Mermaid tells the story of Shea’s introduction to this undersea world, where he meets Prince Demyan, a ruthless merman from another clan who is trying to take over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s available now from Amazon and Barnes and 

In the second book of the series, Blood of a Mermaid, Prince Demyan seeks revenge on Shea for spoiling his evil plans. (The book will be published in May, and I’m sure I’ll be talking about it more as the time gets closer!)

We readily accept that there are all sorts of vampires in literature – from the sparkly kind to the more grim and bloodthirsty versions. We even accept that angels can turn to the dark side. So why should we assume all mermaids have to be sugary sweet?

Just as people come in all shades of good and evil, so should merfolk. It makes life under the sea that much more intriguing!


For more information on Katie O'Sullivan and her books, click here


  1. Great post! Dark, spooky mermaids--so much better than the Disney kind! Have you read Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama? There's another gothic, realistic take on mermaids.

    1. I haven't read Monstrous Beauty yet - or any of the other current mermaid books. I don't want them to influence my writing - but I'm looking forward to catching up on them as soon as this series is done - there are some pretty cool mermaid books being written at the moment!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I love hearing how authors come up with the ideas for their stories, and I love the twist you put on your story and that you did your's from the son's POV.

    1. Thanks, Cherie! I love my main characters and had fun with the male pov.