Paranormal vs Fantasy: Why I still can’t really figure out what the difference is

Posted March 25, 2019 in Discussion Tags:

Hello Disciples! I often find myself struggling to ‘categorize’ some books when it comes to paranormal and fantasy. Some are obvious: The Chronicles of Narnia are fantasy. Twilight is paranormal. But what about Harry Potter? What makes something fantasy or excludes it from fantasy??

My initial thoughts:


  1. Takes place in a different world (not outer space, but a different universe, like Westros)
  2. Includes magic in some way (but the magic doesn’t have to be the focus).


  1. Takes place in this world (could be in the future though)
  2. Includes shifters, vampires, or other supernatural creatures

However, these leave a LOT of books in the in-between. Like, what about Lady Midnight? There are shifters, Fae, and time in this world as well as Faerie. And speaking of, does the inclusion of Fae make a book fantasy? They aren’t shifters, and they do come from a different place. Is is really just the setting that makes it different?

And what about Urban Fantasy?!? It seems like that takes place in this world, but has more of a dystopian vibe and includes magic. So, in this case, setting doesn’t make the difference, magic does. Are you starting to see why I’m so confused. Then I go to goodreads and see so many books in BOTH categories. Can a book be both paranormal and fantasy? If that’s true, then my theory about location can’t be correct.

I headed to google to see if that could clear any of this up. HUGE mistake. First, several articles mentioned fantasy focusing on the battle between good and evil. Um, yeah, sure, but doesn’t paranormal do that do? In essence, don’t most fiction books?

Do we just need more sub-genres to be more clear? Or am I the only one still struggling with this? How do you define the difference? Here are some of the books I have struggled to categorize in the past:

  •   The Dark Artifices series by Cassandra Clare (and The Mortal Instruments)
  •   The Veil Diaries series by BL Brunnemer and Book of Stone by BL Brunnemer (I think these are more paranormal, but there are elements of magic in both…)
  •   Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning (again, the faerie thing)
  •   Time of Enchantment by Julia Clarke (magic, time travel, and shifters-seriously I don’t know what to call this one!)
  •   The Four Horsemen series by LJ Swallow
  •   Lords of the Underworld series by Gena Showalter (I lean more towards fantasy, especially in Puck’s book, but again, I don’t feel confident in that choice)

Do you have thoughts that might help me make sense of all this??? Share in the comments!

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4 responses to “Paranormal vs Fantasy: Why I still can’t really figure out what the difference is

  1. OJ this is me and may not be others classification.

    I think urban fantasy and paranormal are both current or future, and set in this world. Paranormal is more likely to have each book as separate characters stories or romance, urban fantasy carries through with the same main character(s) throughout. Fantasy is a different world or often historical. It may or may not have creatures, but has different world(s). I have had fantasy books which were main character(s) for the series or where the main character was different in each book. So yeah, clear as mud.

  2. For me, Fantasy is another world with it’s own set of rules. Paranormal romance takes place in this world (though there can be other rules too) and has romance with a HEA. Usually, a new couple in each book (though there are some that have a couple across multiple books), but must have a HEA. Urban Fantasy tends to be a little bit darker, set in this world and may or may not have romance involved. Sci-Fi is set in our world, but in space or on another planet. I would probably consider cyborgs sci-fi too, though the only series I’ve tried with this was also in space, so…. I think there are times that things can overlap a bit, like you mentioned Harry Potter, which is partially in this world and partially in a Fantasy world. I think most people are in to all or none, though some might now like as much romance as others. Or something might be too dark, etc. There’s also paranormal cozy mysteries, which have the paranormal aspect and the amateur detective aspect. It may or may not have romance involved. I love books in all of these genres. I also have books that I’ve really disliked in all of these genres. But these are my main go-to for my reading. Great topic though. I think everyone has their own groupings.

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