There's Power in the Blood
University of Richmond English professor Elisabeth Rose Gruner notes that both Christianity and vampirism equate blood with life. Humans instinctually understand that blood is life-giving. But the blood-drinking aspect of vampirism is a "ghastly parody of Christianity," Gruner told CT. While the Christian believer attains eternal life by accepting the blood freely shed on his or her behalf, the vampire achieves immortality by sucking the life out of another.
Thomas Nelson was one of the first publishers to revisit the parallels between Christian thought and vampire myth, publishing in 2008 Field of Blood, the first installment in suspense writer Eric Wilson's Jerusalem's Undead trilogy. Wilson follows the tainted blood of Judas Iscariot as it reaches the Collectors, evil vampires who crave the blood of Christian believers yet know that it will destroy them.
"I figured this would spell the end of my writing career," Wilson laughs. But he wanted to respond to the "resurgence of interest in the vampire myth: the undead seeking unnatural life through the blood of the living." The fascination with blood is a perversion of the pure, atoning nature of Christ's blood, Wilson says—a "cheap counterfeit" of the salvation that Christians claim through the blood of Jesus. "It was time to reclaim the genuine concept."
Allen Arnold, senior vice president of Thomas Nelson Fiction, was on board from the beginning. Since the story of Christianity is one of redemption, Arnold says, Christian fiction should depict that redemption regardless of the subject matter. "Rather than flee from a genre, we prefer to dive in and try to redeem it through a wholly original take."
As to the Christian community's reaction to the trilogy, whose final installment, Valley of Bones, releases in spring 2010, Wilson readily admits that some have objected to the story. But not all: "With anything unique, the brave try it first and then word of mouth brings in the curious."
Leading to Dark Places?
Thirsty, Christian novelist Tracey Bateman's own vampire-themed book, was released by WaterBrook Press in October 2009. She believes the cultural fascination with vampires stems from their immortality: "There is something about the question, 'What happens when we die?' that compels us toward the eternal souls of vampires." The vampire in Thirsty is a metaphor for alcohol addiction and generational curses. Bateman told CT that when the book began to take shape, "I knew it was going to be very personal," and that writing a Christian vampire novel was "tricky." But "what greater message is there than a creature ravaged by sin, separated from God, finding redemption?" she says. "And how fitting that redemption comes by way of blood."
Shannon Marchese, senior editor for fiction at WaterBrook, says that while the goal of Christian publishing isn't to emulate worldly trends, it's important to critically engage what consumers are already reading. Christian vampire fiction allows readers to experience the mythology in a new way.