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Birth: 1961 in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Writer
Source: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 49. Gale Group, 2003.


Biographical Essay
Further Readings
Personal Information
Source Citation


Cate Tiernan is the author of a number of books in the "Sweep" series, which follows the Wiccan adventures of a cast of high school students. Featuring sixteen-year-old Morgan and others, these books deal with the usual trials and tribulations of teens--peer pressure, budding sexuality, and romantic obsession--from the unique viewpoint of a witch's coven. "Though the series has Wicca as a backdrop, as a theme and structure," Tiernan noted on Razorbill, her publisher's Web site, "still, the books are really about more universal things: friendships, romantic relationships, parent-child relationships. The whole angst and pain of being adolescent. Though many of the characters practice Wicca, they're still mainly people interacting with other people in challenging, difficult, rewarding, joyful human relationships. And I would think that most people could relate to that."

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1961, Tiernan noted on the Fire Fairy Web site that New Orleans "has an incredibly rich and exotic culture that had a profound influence on me." While other kids her age were setting up lemonade stands in California, Tiernan and her friends "sold voodoo gris gris and made wax dolls in the likeness of our enemies." Tiernan also said that there is an "attitude of lassitude there, a general acceptance of flamboyant behavior--the heat simply makes people do crazy things."

Tiernan went to school in New York and then returned to New Orleans for a time. Soon, however, Manhattan called her again, and she got a job in publishing for a time and began writing. She published her first book, a middle-grade chapter book, in 1990. "Living in Manhattan was incredible, even though I didn't have a lot of money," Tiernan noted on Fire Fairy. "There was so much to do and see, and so many interesting people to watch." But the "frenetic energy" finally wore on her. During her publishing career, she was happy to help edit The Secret Circle by L. J. Smith. However, after eight years in Manhattan, she and her husband decided to move back to New Orleans. Five years in that city, and following the birth of her two children, they decided they wanted someplace "safer to live," so they moved to Durham, North Carolina, "the most suburban place I've ever lived," according to Tiernan.


Meanwhile, Tiernan was also keeping her hand in writing. An editor friend approached her with an idea for a series about witches. Tiernan, as author, became part of a triangle involved in production of the series. The other two sides were 17th Street Productions, the packagers, and the publishers, Penguin Putnam. In this case, 17th Street came up with the concept, sold it to Penguin, and then found Tiernan. Each of the books in the fourteen-book series was developed from an outline, which all three signed off on. Tiernan then went ahead with a first draft, which in turns was edited by both the packagers and publishers and returned to the author for revisions. This rewriting sometimes went through four drafts or more until all concerned were satisfied with the result.

"Actually," Tiernan noted on Fire Fairy, "I didn't name the series, and I don't name the books. I'm what's called a mid-list author. . . . A big-selling author has ultimate say over everything. I don't have much power. . . . But maybe if `Sweep' is a huge success, the editors and publishers will have to grovel before me, and that would be really fun."

The title for the series was intended to be evocative of the witch's broom, and witchcraft is most definitely at the heart of each of the titles in the series. In the series kick-off, Book of Shadows, Morgan isn't expecting much from her junior year in high school in upstate New York. She is an average type of girl with average insecurities for her age; she enjoys spending time with her best friend, Bree, and tries hard not to argue with her little sister, Mary. When good-looking Cal Blaire moves to town, however, all this changes. He introduces Morgan and her friends to the religion of Wicca, the traditional religion of witches. Skeptical at first, the naturally shy Morgan is drawn to the practice, realizing she has a sensitivity to such `magick' powers. "Morgan finds herself," Lyn Gardner explained in the Guardian, "the center of attention." However, she soon risks losing her best friend over this new obsession. Kaye Kellaway, reviewing the novel for the Observer, admitted: "I enjoyed it hugely." Reviewing this debut title in Booklist, Catherine Andronik was not very enthusiastic. She felt that it is "largely an unexceptional high-school romance," but also noted that Book of Shadows has "some information on Wiccan culture and presents it in a less sensational manner" than other books and films about witches. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly was more positive, calling the first book and the second in the series a "delectably dark pair of novels . . . [that] brings a supernatural spin to classic teen issues." The same reviewer noted that Tiernan ends both titles with cliffhangers, "fanning what will surely be an already keen desire to learn the whole story."

In the second book of the series, The Coven, Morgan has changed her life around, with a new boyfriend and her former best friend now hating her. Morgan has accepted that she is a Blood Witch, descended from a long line of witches. Both her birth parents, in fact, are powerful witches from the Woodbane family, one of the seven lines of Wicca. Morgan goes ever deeper into Wicca in book three, Blood Witch, which introduces two British witches, Hunter and Sky, who seem to dislike Cal. Hunter claims that he is Morgan's true brother and that Cal is practicing black magic. Ultimately Morgan is caught between Cal and Hunter and wonders who she can really trust. "The author does a fantastic job of creating a suspenseful mood and successfully sustains it throughout," wrote Elaine Baran Black in a School Library Journal review of Blood Witch.

With Dark Magick, Morgan's suspicions about Cal's real intentions deepen. Is Cal really her friend, or does he just want to use her? Awakening marks the beginning of a new romance--between Hunter and Morgan--now that Cal is gone. The coven has come under the control of Hunter and Sky and things seem to have settled down, until Morgan and Hunter discover that dark magic is being practiced. "Tiernan handles this somewhat quieter, more emotional novel beautifully," according to Christine Doiron in the Green Man Review. "It makes for exciting reading," P. Justice admitted in a review for the Sunday Times, "with enough magic, spells and romance to keep you gripped to the end." Cal returns in Spellbound, in an attempt to win Morgan back, an attempt that endangers Morgan's little sister, Mary.

The action continues through The Calling and Changeling, and in the latter novel Morgan learns more about her real parents. Her birth father, a witch, actually killed her mother and even tried to kill her. And now he is planning to use black magic against another coven. A council of witches approaches Morgan to save this coven from her own father. Michelle Capozella, while finding The Changeling "not particularly well written," did remark that the series as a whole is "popular," and that the addition to the formula of the usual teen novel of Wicca "adds to the appeal." Doiron found The Changeling to be less than satisfactory. "My common sense and logic began to interfere with my pleasure," she explained.

In the ninth volume of the series, Strife, Morgan is desperately searching for the strength she needs to help the members of her coven. Meanwhile, her adoptive parents, unaware of her magic powers, are furious that she has been neglecting her schoolwork. Black, reviewing this novel in School Library Journal, felt that Tiernan's "characters continue to develop and the thrilling action continues to move the series along nicely."

In Seeker, Hunter is reunited with his father; however, Morgan senses that something is wrong and that Hunter's father is hiding a dark secret. With Origins, the chronicle of the Woodbane conspiracy falls into Hunter and Morgan's hands and they learn more about these powerful witches and how they might overcome them. Eclipse presents a tale of good versus evil when Morgan and Hunter and an unexpected ally, the witch Alisa, team up to battle the forces of darkness that are putting everyone Morgan loves in jeopardy. In Reckoning, Alisa achieves a greater understanding of Wicca when she meets her mother's family. And in the final volume of the series, Full Circle, the three witches, Morgan, Hunter, and Alisa, must now turn inward to battle their own demons.

Karen MacPherson in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted that "Sweep" is one of several popular book series currently dealing with teenage characters and witchcraft: "The new witchcraft-themed books are written in a fast-paced, often-cliched style and feature cliffhanger chapter endings and stock characters. The stories are built around many of the same elements found in classic teen literature: the search for self, the thrill of first love and the power of peer pressure. Cloaking such traditional themes in witchcraft gives the new series an exotic edge." But Doiron was especially troubled by one message of the "Sweep" series: "Morgan willfully and consistently keeps her loving parents in the dark, even while her life is in jeopardy."

Tiernan is not involved in Wicca herself. "Even Wicca is too organized a religion for me," she noted on Fire Fairy. She did research on the subject, however, and her books can be "great starting points for teens" interested in the subject, according to a contributor for In an interview posted at the Forever Sweep Web site, Tiernan advised young writers: "I believe that all writing is about human emotion, whether the setting is futuristic, fantasy, modern, historical, etc. It's always about how people feel about things.... Remembering that, keeping it foremost in your mind as you write, will give your writing a truth and a resonance for other people." Though she has written for other age groups, Tiernan especially enjoys writing for young adults, as she explained in Razorbill: "I like writing for teens because since the audience is older, I can expand on limits somewhat. I can address more serious relationship issues, or talk about sex or drugs. The characters have more freedom, and that makes it fun to write."


Born 1961, in New Orleans, LA; married; children: two. Addresses: Home: Durham, NC.; Agent: c/o Author Mail, Penguin Putnam, 375 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. E-mail:


Writer. Worked in publishing in New York, NY.


  • Writings


  • 2001: Book of Shadows, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: The Coven, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Blood Witch, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Dark Magick, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Awakening, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Spellbound, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: The Calling, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Changeling, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2001: Strife, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2002: Seeker, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2002: Origins, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2002: Eclipse, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2002: Reckoning, Puffin Books (New York, NY).

  • 2002: Full Circle, Puffin Books (New York, NY).


Biographical and Critical Sources


  • Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England), April 20, 2002, Jayne Howarth, "Jayne Howarth Reviews the Latest Publications for Children," p. 47.

  • Booklist, February 15, 2001, Catherine Andronik, review of Book of Shadows, p. 1129.

  • Guardian (Manchester, England), February 13, 2002, Lynn Gardner, review of Book of Shadows.

  • Observer (London, England), June 2, 2002, Kate Kellaway, "Fiction for Girls: Agony, Ecstasy, and Little Tattoos."

  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 31, 2001, Karen McPherson, "Spellbound Witch Books Entrance Young Readers," p. C1.

  • Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2000, reviews of Book of Shadows and The Coven, p. 79.

  • School Library Journal, August, 2001, Elaine Baran Black, review of Blood Witch, p. 190; June, 2002, Michelle Capozella, review of Changeling, pp. 146-147, Elaine Baran Black, review of Strife, p. 148.


  • Fire Fairy Web site, (July 21, 2002), "Cate Tiernan."

  • Forever Sweep Web site, (November 6, 2002), "Questions and Answers with Cate Tiernan."

  • Green Man Review, (July 21, 2002), Christine Doiron, "Cate Tiernan's `Sweep' Fantasy Titles."

  • Razorbill, (July 21, 2002), "An Interview with Cate Tiernan."

  • Sunday Times (Rosebank, South Africa) Web site, (September 15, 2002), P. Justice, reviews of Awakening and Spellbound.

  •, (July 21, 2002), Lucy Burns, "Swept away by `Sweep.'"*


"Cate Tiernan." Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Volume 49. Gale Group, 2003.
Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: The Gale Group. 2004.

Document Number: K1603001010

Last Modified: Thursday, 01/15/09