by Yana Barbelo
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Horror

"A chilling and deeply psychological horror work that forces us all to face the deepest fears of our souls…" ~ K.C. Finn, Readers’ Favorite

Ohno Hoia is a custodian of a mysterious collection of seeds and a lonely soul tormented by her hideous, malignant shadow. What world did she come from? What century? She can't remember. She is a stranger to herself, a God's mistake.

Driven by the desperate wish to break free from the shadow and save the seeds, Ohno arrives at present-day California's desecrated shores. There she plants a garden the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Eden. While the garden's extraordinary power shocks humanity out of despair and transforms the land, Ohno's shadow grows fiercer and soon begins to threaten everything she holds dear. Now Ohno has no choice but to follow her tormentor as it takes her into the surreal, terrifying wilderness of her own soul - The Forest of Everlasting Night.

There she must meet the demons of her own making and ask the question she is dreading most: Who am I?

A spellbinding blend of horror and satire perfect for fans of Clive Barker, "Midian Unmade," Haruki Murakami, Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman.

"Dark fantasy at its best, Umbra is a story that is symbolic, fertile in the interpretations it allows readers... A spellbinding story that had me enthralled and completely pulled in. This is a story for readers who are seekers." - Romuald Dzemo, Readers' Favorite

"I never read anything so beautiful and unnerving at the same time.
Yana Barbelo crafts a tale that is imaginative yet intriguing, delighting readers and frightening them at the same time. The writing is incomparable... You need to read this story to discover its beauty." -Ruffina Oserio, Readers' Favorite

What the Hell is Visionary Horror? (Pun intended)

 By Yana Barbelo

 In its first incarnation, my novel Umbra was a pile of papers drifting aimlessly around my home, year after year, until it suddenly occurred to me that this odd collection of scribbles and drawings had something of a story to it. Excited like a kid on Christmas morning, I promptly typed it up and sent it to a beloved friend. (One of the biggest mistakes of my life. Don't you ever do it!)

 Her reply was swift. She never read anything so appalling in her life. It was pure darkness, and I was the emanation of hell. She would pray for me. And should I ever decide to embrace the light of the One, she will be there for me. Until then, she would stay away from a soul so dark as mine. Wow, I thought. Didn't see that coming. I suppose a first review is like a first kiss, a total gamble.

 Years and hundreds of iterations later, reviews from a bigger world started to arrive. "A monumentally original work of art" (my favorite). "This book just seemed to go nowhere. It just went in circles!!!!" (second favorite, 2-star on Goodreads). "A book worth burning" (heartwarming!).  But I could not, for the life of mine, exorcise that very first one. Because paradoxically, it was accurate. There was something deeply disturbing in my telling, exhilarating for some, intolerable for others. I didn't know the name for this kind of story until another reviewer wrote "a simmering work of Visionary Horror." It dinged. That was it! Visionary Horror.

But what the hell was this Visionary Horror, and why I never heard about it? I went on digging and soon arrived at the scarcely known but massively insightful essay by C.G. Jung, "Psychology and Literature." In it, he distinguishes two modes of literary creation - psychological and visionary. The visionary mode is "a primordial experience that surpasses man's understanding...". So far, so good. I gave up to ever fully understand Umbra myself. Furthermore, "It arises from timeless depths; it is foreign and cold, many-sided, demonic, and grotesque. A grimly ridiculous sample of eternal chaos." If this is not a description of Horror I don't know what it. "It bursts asunder our human standards of value and of esthetic form... and allows a glimpse into the unfathomable abyss of what has not yet become." Visionary.

 Visionary Horror.

 I was ecstatic. My baby got a home. And impressive, although not very populous, pedigree. Greek Mythology and Old Testament, Dante's "Divine Comedy" and Goethe's "Faust ." Classic tales. But what about contemporaries? I asked almighty Google, and I got nothing but noise in response. There were no Visionary Horror books on the world wide web. I couldn't believe it.

 I went back to Jung's essay. A relentless explorer of the depths of the unconscious, he left us clues by which we could identify a visionary work by the effects it has on us, readers.

 We are astonished


Taken aback




We may repudiate this kind of writing.

We demand an explanation.

We marvel.

Most of all, we perceive it as an experience, genuine, wholesome, and strange. Through the artist's imagination, we glimpse an alien enormity of his vision, and we are left to wonder.

 When I applied these criteria, several novelists came to mind. Cliver, selected works of Murakami, Yashiguro, John Crowley's "Ka." I'm sure there are more, walking around in disguises - Dark Fantasy, Magic Realism, New Weird. I would love to bring them together in a list. But I can't read everything there is to read, can I? So I'm asking you, reader. If any book of this sort comes to mind, kindly drop a title in the comments.

 Why is it important? Jung insisted that visionary art always "contains what may truthfully be called a message to generations of men." It seems to me that the discontent and poverty of meaning in our lives are caused, at least in part, by the lack of such messages.

 The visionary creation draws from the depth of the collective unconscious. In a way, Visionary Horror is a collective dream, or nightmare, of humanity. And just like individual dreams, it contains a tremendous amount of energy, coiled like snakes behind each image, each word. If we are to harness this energy, we need to pay attention, welcome the vision, let it unfold, and inform us of things our waking mind can never conceive.  Things that may be vitally important if we are to survive in this beautiful but gravely injured world.


Yana Barbelo is a Russian-American writer, illustrator, psychiatrist. She is fascinated with fringes, edges, brinks, and all manner of liminality. She writes Literary Horror/Weird fiction, which explores the darkest contradictions of human nature.

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