Skip to content
Lowe, Helen
Writer's File

Helen Lowe

Canterbury - Waitaha
Lowe, Helen
In brief
Helen Lowe is a fiction writer, poet, interviewer and blogger. She has won awards for her fiction and poetry, and her first novel Thornspell (2008) and subsequent series, The Wall of the Night, have garnered significant recognition in New Zealand and overseas. Her writing has also appeared in journals, magazines and in print and online anthologies.


Lowe, Helen (1961 – ) writes speculative fiction novels, poetry, and both speculative and literary short fiction. She was born in Wellington and attended schools in New Zealand and Singapore. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and Geography from the University of Waikato, and was awarded the KM Bell Memorial Prize (Geography) in 1982. She continued her education at the University of Stockholm and in 1984 earned a Postgraduate Diploma in Social Science.

Helen Lowe has worked professionally as a planner, environmental manager, and a writer. Her poem, "Rain Wild Magic" won the Previously Unpublished Category of the 2003 Robbie Burns Poetry Competition; now the Robert Burns Poetry Competition, and she was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors' Mentorship Award with Owen Marshall in 2005. Lowe's poem, "Argos" won the 2007 A20 Poetry Competition (Australia). She has had fiction and poetry published extensively in journals and magazines, including works in the New Zealand Listener, Takahe, nzepc, Blackmail Press, Poetry NZ, JAAM, and Bravado. Her writing has also been anthologised in print and online.

Helen Lowe's first novel, Thornspell (Knopf, USA) was published in 2008. It garnered significant recognition, receiving runner up for the 2007 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for the unpublished manuscript of the novel, and received a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2009. Thornspell won the 2009 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, Young Adult; and Lowe was voted Best New Talent at the same awards.

On Thornspell, Frances Grant for Canvas wrote, ‘the winner of a Robbie Burns poetry award brings her lyrical skills to this reinvention of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale… Lowe gives what might have been yet another fantasy quest story a darkly imaginative and sensual dimension as her hero fights his way between his world and the strange faerie realm.’

Lowe’s most recent work, The Wall of the Night series, distributed in New Zealand by Hachette, has been described by Robin Hobb as, '[a] richly told tale of strange magic, dark treachery, and conflicting loyalties, set in a well-realized world.' The first of the series, The Heir of Night (William Morrow, 2010: USA; Little, Brown, 2011: UK) has received widespread critical acclaim. Library Journal observed that: 'Lowe's first novel, a series opener ... reinvigorates the epic fantasy with appealing characters and a richly detailed world.' The Heir of Night has received multiple awards, winning a 2010 "Single Titles" Reviewers' Choice Award, a 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, and the international Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer in 2012. The novel was published in the Netherlands as Kind van der Nacht (Luitingh) in 2011; in France as L'Inheritiere de la Nuit (Calmann Levy) in 2012; and in Germany as Die Erbin Der Nacht (Blanvalet) in 2014.

In 2012, Lowe received the Ursula Bethell Creative New Zealand Residency in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury.

The second novel of the The Wall of the Night series, The Gathering of the Lost (William Morrow 2012: USA; Little, Brown, 2012: UK) was shortlisted for the 2013 David Gemmell Legend Award for the Best Novel in the Epic, Heroic, or High Fantasy genre. In 2014, Lowe was awarded the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Nebula Award-winning author, Catherine Asaro said of Lowe’s work in The Gathering of the Lost, 'Helen Lowe writes wonderful stories, yes, but her work also speaks with lyricism to deeper questions of how we treat each other. With lovely prose that brings vivid life to her characters, she creates a universe with people we care about. This is an author with a gift for fantasy.'

The third novel of the series, Daughter of Blood (William Morrow, USA; Little, Brown UK) was published in January 2016. Publishers Weekly said, 'returning fans…will delight in Lowe’s intricate worldbuilding and keen eye for politicking. The introduction of new characters and prophecies adds some depth of intrigue to Lowe’s impressive epic', while Fantasy Book Review had Daughter of Blood as a "Recommended Book of the Month", expressing the view that The Wall Of Night series was ‘shaping up to be a modern classic of Fantasy storytelling.’

Helen Lowe is currently working on the fourth and final novel in The Wall Of Night series, working title The Chaos Gate. She appeared in 2016 at the WORD Christchurch Writers' and Readers' Festival, discussing the topic ‘Making It Overseas’, and presented a masterclass on ‘Building Fantastic Worlds’ at the inaugural National Writers' Forum, an event which garnered the following feedback on The Big Idea: ‘My highlights were Helen Lowe’s session on Building Fantastic Worlds (utterly worth getting myself out of bed on a Sunday morning) and Chris Cleave’s session on Writing Psychology.’

Last Updated November 2016


Helen Lowe is available to participate in school visits as part of the Book Council’s Writers in Schools programme. She is able to speak to students 7 years and above, and can talk about being a writer, poet, novelist and fiction writer, as well as a teen fiction writer. Helen Lowe is able to travel to schools outside of her region given sufficient notice.