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Guide to Supernatural vs. Paranormal Fiction With Examples

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jan 21, 2020 • 3 min read

If you browse the new releases at your local bookstore, you’re likely to see a plethora of books, graphic novels, and short stories in the supernatural and paranormal genres. Though these genres are closely related to one another, there are subtle differences between the two.



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What Is Supernatural Fiction?

The supernatural genre incorporates elements that cannot be understood by science and operate outside the rules of the real world. Supernatural fiction normally concerns itself with matters of god, the soul, archangels, and resurrection. Subgenres include supernatural horror fiction (i.e. the work of H. P. Lovecraft), Gothic (i.e. Frankenstein), ghost stories, supernatural thrillers, and other macabre stories in the horror genre.

6 Examples of Supernatural Fiction

Supernatural fiction has been popular for centuries. Some iconic works of supernatural fiction include:

  1. Pet Sematary by Stephen King (1983)
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1823)
  3. Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979)
  4. Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu (1864)
  5. “The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe (1843)
  6. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

What Is Paranormal Fiction?

The paranormal genre of literary fiction includes beings and phenomena that are outside the realm of normal scientific understanding of the natural world. Though the paranormal genre may include supernaturalist elements, this fiction genre generally includes creatures that have been popularized by folklore, fairy tales, and popular culture, such as fairies, aliens, shapeshifters, and the undead.

Subgenres that generally fall into the paranormal fiction category include paranormal romance, urban fantasy, fantasy romance novels, and paranormal fantasy. The paranormal romance genre has yielded many New York Times bestselling hardcovers and audiobooks in recent years, with storylines centered around young adult and high school-age main characters who fall in love with a paranormal creature.

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16 Examples of Paranormal Fiction

Numerous wildly popular book series fall within the paranormal fiction genre.

  1. Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (2005)
  2. Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris (2001)
  3. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series by Laurell K. Hamilton (1993)
  4. Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (2006)
  5. Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward (2005)
  6. Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice (1976)
  7. The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher (2000)
  8. Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
  9. Books of Blood series by Clive Barker (1984)
  10. Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews (2014)
  11. The Hollows series by Kim Harrison (2004)
  12. Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh (2017)
  13. Highlander series by Laren Marie Moning (1999)
  14. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011)
  15. Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole (2006)
  16. The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (2007)

What Is the Difference Between Paranormal and Supernatural Fiction?

Paranormal and supernatural fiction are closely related literary genres that are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two. “Paranormal” refers to the idea that there are certain phenomena that are outside the realm of scientific understanding but could potentially be explained by science one day, even if the chances are slim.

The paranormal genre includes creatures like zombies, werewolves, aliens, and ghosts, as well as phenomena like telepathy and time travel. “Supernatural” refers to phenomena that are forever outside the realm of scientific explanation, such as god, the afterlife, and the soul.


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Are Fantasy Novels Paranormal or Supernatural Fiction?

There is some debate in the literary world about whether or not high fantasy fiction, dark fantasy, and other contemporary fantasy genres fall into the supernatural or paranormal category. Though popular fantasy novels and fantasy series like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter may include supernatural creatures and elements of the paranormal, fantasy books are generally considered to be their own distinct genre.

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