For St. Patrick's Day, I invited author Lori Herter to share her story of seeing a Fairy Tree in an Irish graveyard and an excerpt from her women's fiction novel, The Thin Place, set in the same area. Welcome, Lori, and Happy St. Paddy's Day!
The Thin Place and the Fairy Tree
by Lori Herter
I’ve always loved the mystical aspect of Ireland, the Irish fairy lore, the island’s lush greenery and frequent rainbows. Several years ago, my husband and I discovered tiny, hidden away Caldragh Graveyard on Boa Island in Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. A prehistoric pagan stone is located there, with a face carved on either side of it. It’s the mysterious stone that draws most visitors to the ancient cemetery, where it sits amidst tall green grass, thick bushes and trees, and many broken headstones. After our first visit, I began to get ideas for my book, THE THIN PLACE. In Ireland, a “thin place” is a spot where the veil between our world and the Celtic Otherworld, where fairies dwell, is very thin.
I’d heard Irish folklore about fairy trees. As I began work on my book, I decided it might be fun if I set a fairy tree in the graveyard. I also invented the idea that my character, Maeve, who believes she’s part fairy, would come and go to the graveyard by rowboat, since the cemetery is on an island in a lake. By our next visit to Ireland, I’d learned that fairy trees are usually whitethorn trees that have many small blossoms in spring. When we returned to the graveyard, I quickly noticed a tree full of white blossoms, a tree I hadn’t paid any attention to the year before because it wasn’t in bloom. My husband and I looked closely at its branches and saw pieces of cloth, a necklace, ribbons, etc., that people had left on the tree. A white quartz stone was tucked between the tree’s roots. Clearly locals looked upon it as a fairy tree. Nearby I noticed a barely visible path between tall blades of grass outside the graveyard’s metal fence. My husband hopped over the fence and walked down the path, disappearing from view in the dense foliage. He called back to me and said, “There’s a rowboat tied up here!” He took a photo to show me. So the story elements that I thought I’d invented turned out to be true! I have to say it spooked me a little. Perhaps the fairies had put the ideas in my head? After all, it IS a thin place!
Then something even more surprising happened. At the graveyard, I’d
left a quarter by the fairy tree, as a token of respect, and left
another one at the pagan stone, where previous visitors had left Irish
coins. I followed this local tradition with tongue-in-cheek amusement.
When we drove back to our hotel, The Manor House on Lower Lough Erne,
and parked in the gravel parking lot, I noticed something shiny near the
back tire as I got out of the car. I looked closer and saw several
American coins, quarters and dimes, lying on the gravel. We hadn’t run
into any other American tourists at the hotel. We checked our own money
and hadn’t lost any. Were the fairies acknowledging my gift at the
fairy tree? Even my husband, a sceptic of anything supernatural,
remarked on the coincidence. When I got back to writing THE THIN PLACE,
I included a similar scene. Didn’t want to ignore any idea the fairies
had given me! THE THIN PLACE has turned out to be one of my very
favorite books I’ve written, and perhaps I have The Good People to thank
The Thin Place by Lori Herter
Travel writer Glenna Molloy flies to Ireland to explore sacred places cherished by her past love, Finn Maguire. After encountering Maeve, who claims fairy heritage, Finn appears, an old deception is revealed, and Glenna must fight for happiness. Will the Emerald Isle’s magic heal what time and secrets have swept away?
Careful how he stepped on the uneven ground, Finn approached the whitethorn tree, its many branches frothy with little white flowers. He walked around the tree three times, bending his head to avoid the lower branches where they came close to the rusting metal fence.
The sun had come out. He took off his comfortable old tweed jacket, folded it, and set it on the grass under the tree, next to the fist-sized quartz rock that someone had pushed between outcropping roots. He sat on the jacket and leaned back against the trunk, feeling the cool breeze on his blue shirtsleeves.
He tilted his chin to gaze up into the tree. The dense canopy formed a shelter composed of numerous jutting branches with rough bark and bare, clinging vines, all twisting into a maze of thousands of small green leaves mixed with snowy flowers. As he looked more closely, he began to discern objects. He spotted a bird’s nest, a unicorn necklace someone had hung from a twig, and long thin ribbons, pink and blue, tied next to each other hanging from a branch. A small handmade ceramic cup with pagan symbols sat tucked into a crevice. A bracelet of intertwining knots, with a bead on which was painted the Celtic spiral, circled a low branch.
It felt good to return to a place where nothing much had changed. The graveyard looked the same as when he’d first been brought here as a child by his parents.
He opened his palm and studied the quarter again. Maybe leaving America had been the right thing to do at the time. But the decision hadn’t turned out for the best. Or, perhaps he never should have gone to California in the first place. He wouldn’t have met his one great love there, his lost soul mate. He’d sorely missed her ever since. Her absence had left a hole in his life. Somehow this shiny quarter brought her back to him, as if she were very near.
Tiny flower petals floated down in the breeze like fairy dust over him, and he began to feel drowsy. Funny thing, but at night he couldn’t sleep. Too much on his mind. Yet here in this peaceful place surrounded by birdsong, he thought he could sleep forever….
# # #
Something woke him, a sound, a feeling. He opened his eyes and realized it must be evening. The sky was light, but the sun had sunk below the treetops. He’d slept for hours.
And then he saw her. A young woman, no older than twenty, stood a dozen feet away staring at him. Her thick, waist-length hair was black, black as her long silky skirt that wafted in the breeze. She clutched a red shawl around her shoulders, covering a blouse. He could see the white sleeves billowing beneath the shawl’s long fringe. The name Leananshee came unbidden to his mind, the dangerously enchanting fairy muse of Irish folklore. He’d never quite believed there were such creatures. But then he’d never been alone under a fairy tree as twilight approached.
Lori Herter grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, graduated from the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus, and worked for several years at the Chicago Association of Commerce & Industry. She married her husband, Jerry, a CPA, and they moved to Southern California a few decades ago. They have traveled extensively in the U.S., Canada, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Tahiti. Lori’s favorite destination of all is Ireland. Over several trips she has visited both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Delving into Celtic legends and Celtic Spirituality has been a special interest of Lori’s in recent years.
The Thin Place is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Contact Lori online at