Paranormal vs Urban Fantasy | #WyrdandWonder

A while back I asked on Twitter if you wanted to see something specific from me for Wyrd and Wonder this year. I got a suggestion for some subgenre discussions which was backed by more people. The one I’m going for now is Paranormal vs urban fantasy.

Subgenres can be hard to determine because so many books tend to use this and that from various subgenres. Even the bigger genres of sci-fi, fantasy, romance etc tend to flow into one book here and there. That is the beauty of books.

Urban Fantasy

A while ago I did a discussion on Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy where in it was determined that Urban fantasy is a subgenre of contemporary fantasy. Urban fantasy basically means fantasy set in current time in a city. It is that simple. One can also say that urban fantasy often has creatures like vampires, werewolves etc.


Paranormal is often said as Paranormal Romance. But paranormal doesn’t nessecarily have to be paired with romance. Paranormal romance is a subgenre of Paranormal. Paranormal is what is beyond the normal scientific explanation. Powers like telekinises, telepathy, being able to put things on fire with your mind that isn’t connected to magic. But also ghosts and angels I would put in the category of paranormal. Some also put time travel, aliens etc in paranormal where it crosses over with science-fiction.

So what is the difference then?

Shortly put, the difference between urban fantasy and paranormal is that urban fantasy is very much tied to the setting of a city and to our current time period. Paranormal can be anywhere and in any kind of time period as long as it has things that are beyond a normal scientific explanation. This means that an urban fantasy can be paranormal as well.

Examples Urban Fantasy

The City We Became | Mercedes Thompson | October Daye | Rivers of London

Examples Paranormal

The Haunting of Aveline Jones | The Library of the Unwritten | The Wicked Deep | City of Ghosts

16 thoughts on “Paranormal vs Urban Fantasy | #WyrdandWonder

  1. Good explanation, but the devil is always in the tail, as you mentioned that many books are mixing up genres. Is there for example such thing as a historical urban fantasy? And what about urban fantasies that have been written 50 years ago, before the genre was even defined as such?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Technically there is no such thing as historical urban fantasy. It is about recent, as that is what contemporary fantasy is and that is what it is a subgenre of. However one can define recent or our current time as quite differently. I’d imagine that someone of the generation of the book from 50 years ago would still class it as urban fantasy because they experienced that time. However I, as a few generations later, would class it as a historical fantasy because the link to our modern current time is too far away. So interpretation is a big thing too.

      The above is very basic, just as a help for people to help define what the genre actually is.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It also doesn’t help that “Paranormal Romance” went from being the Next Big Thing to sort-of swept under the rug. Now books that should be PR are sometimes labeled Urban Fantasy because that has the better reputation.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hallo, Hallo Annemieke,

    I am a reader who never even realised she’d dig Urban Fantasy + Paranormal Fantasy as much as she actually does until just ahead of developing Wyrd And Wonder with Imyril and Lisa. For starters, it is my love of the paranormal and spookied side of the ledger in Fantasy which sparked the discussion with my co-hosts which developed into our sister October event #SpooktasticReads; however, on the UF side of it — when I first started reading the works by E. Chris Garrison (ie. The Tipsy Fairy Tales; before we became friends) I had no clue how hard I’d fall for the genre itself. Then, betwixt and between reading new installments of that series, I found other authors who write UF and I’m in LOVE with their series, too! #OctoberDaye being the latest find in the last few years,… and sidenote, I gushed so much about, Mum wants to do a RAL with me as our local library recently bought the series! #awesomesauce And, no Mum never reads Fantasy let along UF!

    I broached a similar smaller topic on my reviews this Wyrd And Wonder about the differences and clarifications and classifications for Urban Fantasy vs Magical Realism. I also did more digging on both myself and still was betwixt and befuddled about two of the stories I was reading in regards to how to classify them both as a reader. I leant on the fact the Jinn are usually strictly inside a Magical Realism storyline but with the Marvelwoods and the circus, etc I leant on the fact it had more traditional elements of Urban Fantasy moreso than it had Magical Realism but that’s splicing the line in some ways, too as generally UF takes place in a larger metropolis vs the small towne of the Marvelwoods.

    So, I strive to place the stories I read in the right categories, too but sometimes there are overlaps and/or there are gaps between how I interpret the genres I’m reading and how the books themselves are actually categorised by a) others b) publishers and c) their own authors.

    Ooh! My favourite Paranormal Fantasy series right now is the Wonky Inn series — you’ll find two new reviews for that one coming up on my blog this May and I have 2x reviews for E. Chris Garrison – one is the final novel in the Tipsy Fairy Tales and the other is a first in a new series, called Trans Witch.


    Loved this post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh how awesome you are getting your mom to read fantasy 😀

      I also think stories that have multiple subgenres totally exist. I don’t think there are stories that strictly only fit in one or the other. But I think that is also what makes it so complicated for many.

      Trans Witch sounds pretty awesome.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Die subgenres blijven soms een uitdaging hé. Ik denk dan altijd dat het weer maar eens aantoont dat labels niet alles kunnen omvatten. Vermits elk boek anders is en sommige verhalen in verschillende vakjes thuishoren in plaats van één.

    Liked by 1 person

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