Derry journalist brings a touch of magic to the north west with new novel

Mon, 27/02/2012 - 17:40 -- Editor

A Derry journalist, more akin to writing about politics and the peace process, has just launched her first novel – an epic Irish urban fairytale revolving around myths and magic in wild and windy Donegal.

Leona O’Neill, editor of Derry's online newspaper and Irish News columnist, this week published Emerald Witch, the story of a teenage girl who discovers shortly before her 18th birthday that she is a witch with direct blood links to the ancient Celtic Goddess of war, death and destruction, the Morrigan.

“I suppose it’s a departure for me,” says Leona. “People are familiar with seeing my name beside news stories, or my column in the Irish News. Writing about witches, wizards, power-crazed Goddesses and underground worlds beneath the streets of Dublin is light years away from my day job but I love contemporary fantasy novels and always wanted to write one myself.

“My novel is an adventure from start to finish. The story rolls out in the wilds of Donegal, romps through the streets of Dublin, and rampages through Derry city, my hometown.”

The mother-of-four wrote her novel in the evenings, stealing time to write in between working in the newspaper, bath times, homework and bedtime routines.

“I wrote while a newborn slept on my shoulder. I wrote while a toddler re-enacted Thomas the Tank Engine crashes at my feet. I wrote while breaking up squabbles between my older boys. I wrote in every available minute until I had fashioned a story I loved and knew everyone else would love.”

Leona began writing her novel while her father - William Breslin, one of the leading lights in the Civil Rights Movement - battled cancer two years ago. She says the writing took her mind off the despair as her father lost his fight for life.

“I would visit my father in the Foyle Hospice and come home and write,” she says. “It was my way of escaping into a world devoid of hospital visits, medication, nurses, and the utter despair I felt as my beloved father slipped away from us. I didn’t want to live in the real world then, it was too awful. Being able to escape to this alternative world full of wonderful magic helped to heal my heart, soothe my soul.

“I told my father about my story, of the characters and the plot. He always encouraged his children to chase our dreams. He told me I should write it. So I did, and I dedicated it to him.”

Emerald Witch is now available to buy via on

It is also available in ebook format...

For Kindle UK

Kindle US

And for iPad, Nook, PC, Mac etc