Interview With Carolyn Astfalk

Come Back to Me FrontWhat inspired you to first start writing fiction?

Looking back, I’ve always had a rather cinematic imagination that allowed stories to play out in my mind. However, I wrote strictly nonfiction until 2010, when I gave National Novel Writing Month a shot. That manuscript, after many years and much revision, became Rightfully Ours. Once I started writing, the stories flowed more easily, and I enjoyed the challenge of taking all of those words and making something meaningful out of them.

What inspired you to write a sequel to Stay With Me?

Initially, I was looking for something new to write, and the characters from Stay With Me were still active in my imagination. I knew there was more to Alan and Jamie’s story. Initially, I’d considered that Alan may have had a problem with pornography, something I ended up developing with different characters in All in Good Time.

Tell us about Come Back to Me in one sentence.

A separated couple and their mutual friend must master their selfishness and immaturity to find purpose and grace enough to start over.

Are Alan and Megan based on anyone you know or are they totally fictional characters?

Alan and Jamie were inspired by the experience my husband and I had with Catholic Engaged Encounter. In 1996, on the weekend retreat we attended in preparation for our own marriage, we were one of only three couples who weren’t already living together. Oddly enough for a church-sponsored event, the six of us were put on the defensive about it by the other couples and bonded pretty quickly. When we later got involved with Engaged Encounter as volunteers, most of the couples coming through the program were living together already too.

Statistically, couples that live together before marriage, especially those living together without plans to marry, are more likely to divorce. So the couples on those weekends, though they desired happy, long-lasting marriages, were putting themselves at a disadvantage. Alan and Jamie let me explore why couples in those situations are more likely to struggle.

Megan is entirely fictional although I’ve observed a family implode much like Megan’s did following the death of a child. Everything and every member of the family was turned on its head.

Do you have specific rituals when you write?  A certain place or time?  Music that you listen to?  A special beverage?

I’ve always had to write whenever I could grab a few minutes either while babies were napping or kids were otherwise occupied. Lately I’ve been less inclined to write amidst constant distractions, so I’m grateful that I now have some quiet time to write—when I can discipline myself to do it. We’re pressed for space in our house, so my writing has always been done on my laptop at the dining room table, sometimes with a Spotify playlist to set the mood. Though I’m naturally a night owl, I prefer to write earlier in the day and read at night. I typically have a mug of hot tea next to the computer.

Of the now five novels you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

Ornamental Graces is my favorite. Dan and Emily had a lot of obstacles to overcome, but their intentions were good, and though it took time for Dan to get to a place where he could be the man Emily needed, their love never really faltered, even when they tried to fight it. Though the book spans every season, I think the Christmas setting that bookends the story makes it that much sweeter.

What do you like to read?  Who are some of your favorite authors?

I read a variety of genres, but I always come back to character-driven contemporary Catholic and Christian romance. I enjoy reading books by the many Catholic authors I consider friends, such as Theresa Linden, Leslea Wahl, and yourself. Elizabeth Byler Younts, Courtney Walsh, and Denise Hunter are a few of my favorite Christian authors. I also try to slip in some classics, though not enough. Willa Cather is one of my favorite classic authors.

Tell us more about yourself and your family. Are you working on any more novels?

My husband and I have four children ages 7-16. We try not to overextend ourselves with activities, but even so there is plenty to keep us busy with Scouts, 4-H, sports, musical instruments, and other extra-curricular activities. I’m chairperson of a national pro-life organization based in Pennsylvania, and now that the children are all in school, I’ve been able to volunteer more often at our school and parish and attend a Bible study. I should probably be spending more time cleaning house.

I have two novels in progress that I hope to complete in 2020. One, which I call Lost and Found, is a contemporary romance set in the New River Gorge of West Virginia involving an adventure guide/amateur Bigfoot hunter and a girl who’s defined her self-worth and others’ by their weight. The other is a second-chance contemporary romance between a man and woman whose paths cross time and time again in ways they are sometimes unaware. I’ve been calling that one The Light Between. After that, there’s a Young Adult novel I’ve been developing in my mind that I’ve yet to put on paper.

Speaking the Truth With Our Bodies #TOB

Silhouette of a couple of friends breathing at sunset

image from iStock credit AntonioGuillem

My new column at Catholic Mom: “The body reveals the person… Science can examine our flesh in minute detail… But no amount of scientific exploration can replace the truth that our bodies reveal us, giving form to our innermost being and unique personality. Our bodies are sacramental—they make the invisible visible.”  (St. John Paul II, Theology of the Body)

Part of the brilliance of the Theology of the Body is that it forces us to think about how our bodies speak a language: we can speak the truth or tell a lie with our bodies.  When husband and wife marry, they promise to love as God loves; freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Have you ever been lied to?  Deceived?  Jesus was deceived by Judas. It was not a betrayal of words, but with a kiss…with his body.

When I was in high school, the drama teacher asked whether I’d like to be in the school’s one act play. The part she had in mind for me was a fairy; it only had one line at the end: “It will end happily; it will, it will!”  At the time, I was very small person and I wore dark glasses.  Even with the shimmery dress and fairy’s wand, I’m sure I looked more like a nerd than a fairy.

Each day for a week, we rehearsed the entire play. At the end of each rehearsal, the curtains closed, and I easily walked through to give my one line.

On the night of the performance, just as the play finished and after the curtains were drawn shut, I moved into position. As I pulled at the two sides of the curtain, it felt like they were sewn shut.  I frantically struggled with it until, all of a sudden, it abruptly separated, and I plunged forward, right onto my knees, the audience roaring with laughter. I sputtered out my line, but with the noise of the crowd, no one could hear it.  I turned around and when I got behind the curtain, I was on the verge of tears.  That’s when a few of the cast members tried to console me by telling me how funny I was.  Yes, I’m sure falling down in front of 300 people was funny. But, that wasn’t supposed to happen. Why couldn’t I get that darned curtain open?

I found out later that the cast had decided not to tell me that they were planning to hold the inner part of the curtains closed to keep me from coming out, then opening them after ten seconds because they wanted my stumble out onto the stage to be as real as possible.

I felt like a fool.  I felt like my smallness was being mocked. I felt like my ability to be in the play was distrusted. And I didn’t like being deceived. What’s more, this lie was not just one of words. It was a physical act, causing me to struggle, experience panic, fall to the floor and produce tears of embarrassment and failure.

Fast-forward ten years into the future.  My (Catholic) fiancé and I were having an argument, a big one. We had already decided not to have sex before marriage. Now he was insisting that we use Natural Family Planning instead of a ‘reliable’ method of birth control after marriage. I knew that the Church taught that contraception was immoral.  But no one listened to the Church anymore, right?  And NFP wasn’t effective, was it?

When he tried to explain that having sex with contraception would be a lie made with our bodies, I scoffed at him.  I had been taught well by the public schools and the media. I was convinced that contraception was the responsible thing to do. He countered with, “If you used a diaphragm or I used a condom, I wouldn’t be able to ignore that a piece of latex was involved in our consummation. It should be you, me and God, that’s all,”  and “if we used contraception, it would be like attending Mass with earplugs in our ears.”

My incredibly bright, artistic and 20-year-old fiancé tried to help me understand in layman’s terms what was so wrong with contraception.  He seemed to know inherently that our bodies were so good, that we must treat them with respect and reverence. In the end, I still didn’t understand his idealistic views, but I trusted him (and the Church) just enough to agree to give up the idea of using contraception.

After we had been married for six months, I started to better understand what James was trying to explain. I experienced firsthand a marriage without contraception. My husband’s ‘language of the body’ told me that he loved me freely, without reservation, faithfully and fruitfully.

Our bodies do have a language and, with it, the capacity to tell the truth or to lie. But not just a simple, interpersonal language. It goes deeper than that.  God communicates to us through sex. Human beings can be conceived from the one-flesh union of man and woman. When a life is created, God utters the word that creates this new human person with an eternal soul.

This teaching is an ideal, to be sure. Speaking the truth with our bodies creates a lifelong spiritual, emotional and physical bond that leads the couple in virtue and towards heaven…and it isn’t always easy.

The challenge is that many couples either ignore or are unaware of this ideal of speaking the truth with our bodies.

In the movie Vanilla Sky, of their sexual relationship, Cameron Diaz’s character says to Tom Cruise’s character:  “Don’t you know that when you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not.”

With their bodies, a couple who uses contraception says, I take you to be my spouse, but I don’t take your fertility (or fruitfulness).

While it is possible for a same-sex couple to be free, total and faithful, it is impossible for a same-sex couple to be fruitful. Their union cannot by its nature be life-giving.

A couple who has pre-marital sex is often using contraception, so they’re not loving in a way that is fruitful or total. A couple who is fornicating is renewing vows that have never been spoken. Often, they’re not free because sex can become a conquest or a habit, and little by little, they can lose their sense of self-control.

When sex produces a life, it means that something went right, not wrong.  Contraception isn’t 100 percent effective and unplanned pregnancies still occur.  Some of those women have abortions when unplanned pregnancies happen. But even abortions are a lie. God has said that this unborn child is a person, but the woman says, “No, ‘it’ is not.”  Children are the fruit of married life, of sex, and they deserve to live.

No one likes being on the receiving end of deception. I found this out firsthand. It is the same the world over.

Our bodies speak a language. In the same way that we can lie with our tongues, we can also lie with our bodies.  NFP allows a couple to speak the truth with their bodies.

To learn more about NFP:

Copyright 2020 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Come Back to Me Virtual Book Tour #VBT

CBTM Blog Tour GraphicCome Back to Me Front

 Today I’m participating in Carolyn Astfalk’s  virtual book tour for the sequel to Stay With MeCome Back To Me.

Stay With Me is currently only .99 on Kindle.

Blurb: Alan Reynolds slid into marriage. When his wife kicks him out, it looks as if he may slide out just as easily. Forced to bunk with his newlywed younger brother and his pregnant wife, Alan gets a firsthand look at a blissfully happy marriage while his wife rebuffs his attempts at a reunion.

Caught in the middle, Alan and his wife’s mutual friend Megan grows increasingly unhappy with her own empty relationships. If that weren’t enough, her newly sober brother has found happiness with Jesus, a goody-goody girlfriend, and a cockeyed cat.

When Alan and Megan hit rock bottom, will there be grace enough in their bankrupt lives to right their relationships and find purpose like their siblings have?

Book trailer:

Buy link Kindle:

Buy link print:



Author links:









Amazon Author Page:


Author bio:

Carolyn Astfalk resides with her husband and four children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where it smells like either chocolate or manure, depending on wind direction. She is the author of the contemporary Catholic romances Stay With MeOrnamental Graces, and All in Good Time, and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, Catholic Teen Books, Pennwriters, and is a and Today’s Catholic Teacher contributor. True to her Pittsburgh roots, she still says “pop” instead of “soda,” although her beverage of choice is tea.

Tour stops:

Mon., Feb. 24 – Sarah Reinhard, Snoring Scholar

Tues., Feb. 25 – Barb Szyszkiewicz, FranciscanMom

Wed., Feb. 26 – Ellen Gable, Plot Line and Sinker

Thurs., Feb. 27 – Patrice MacArthur, Spiritual Woman

Fri., Feb. 28 – Theresa Linden, Things Visible & Invisible

Stay With Me Only .99 on #Kindle #Bargain

Stay with Me front cover

Stay With Me Kindle Edition is on sale for only .99 today through Friday at noon Eastern!

Finalist in the 2016 IAN Book Awards (Romance)!!

Synopsis: With her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection.

Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse.

With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

This is a warning: the book you hold in your hand is compelling and well-written and you may find it, as I did, impossible to put down. It’s a romance that’s not trashy in any way, one that illustrates what a novel of this sort should inspire in its reader. When you’re finished, you’ll be a better person. (And probably a very tired one, because you’ll have stayed up all night to finish it.) You’ll also be sharing this book with every woman you know!
– Sarah Reinhard, author and blogger at


Reviews for Translated Books! #reviews

Les Cadeaux de Julia Front CoverjpgRecently, foreign readers have read my translated books, and here is what they had to say about them:

Les Cadeaux de Julia  Julia’s Gifts:

Five Stars. Je connais la réputation de l’auteur et je voulais voir la traduction Française. Celle-ci est fidèle et agréable à lire. Toutefois, au niveau de l’édition, je déplore que les mots soient coupés n’importe comment en bout de ligne. A lire dès le collège, bon aperçu de la 1ère guerre mondiale par le regard d’une infirmière sur le terrain. L’histoire d’amour, qui ne cherche d’emblée pas à être imprévisible, rend la lecture et la traversée de l’horreur de la guerre assez attractive à lire, et abordable dès 12 ans.

Translation: I know the reputation of the author and I wanted to see the French translation. It is faithful and pleasant to read. However, in terms of editing, I regret that the words are cut out haphazardly in the end. Read from college, good overview of the 1st World War through the eyes of a nurse in the field. The love story, which does not immediately try to be unpredictable, makes reading and crossing the horror of war quite attractive to read, and affordable from 12 years old.

Julia's Gifts Portuguese Front Cover JPGOs Presentes de Julia  Julia’s Gifts: (Portuguese)

Five stars: Que livro gostoso de ler. Apesar do romance se desenvolver durante um período de guerra, há relatos fortes e impactantes, mesmo assim, a história terna e apaixonante do casal, Peter e Julia, faz vc torcer e lutar, página por página para que tudo dê certo no final. Como tem que ser em um bom romance.
Embora o casal seja católico, mesmo sendo eu de outra religião, em nenhum momento me senti ofendida, pois o que a autora enfatiza é o amor ao próximo, à família e a Deus. A não sermos tão egoístas, a ponto de só pensarmos em nosso bem estar, pois quando a gente se doa, coisas boas acontecem. Não foi fácil para a Júlia e para o Peter, mas no final eles tiveram o seu “felizes para sempre” como todas nós sonhamos. Não é mesmo?
Recomendo a leitura. Pra quem gosta de romance hot, não indico.
É um casal sem “pegada” , mas nem por isso, menos interessante.
É um romance sútil, começa com os sonhos de uma menina, que ao longo da história se torna uma mulher forte, que encontra seu amado, não amor a primeira vista, mas no dia a dia, vão aprendendo a se respeitar, a se admirar e daí nasce um amor verdadeiro e forte.
Leiam! É muito bonito!

Translation: What a nice book to read. Despite the romance developing during a period of war, there are strong and impactful reports, even so, the tender and passionate story of the couple, Peter and Julia, makes you cheer and fight, page by page so that everything works out in the end. As it has to be in a good romance. Although the couple is Catholic, even though I am from another religion, at no time did I feel offended, because what the author emphasizes is love of neighbor, family and God. Unless we are so selfish, to the point of only thinking about our well being, because when we give ourselves, good things happen. It was not easy for Julia and Peter, but in the end they had their “happily ever after” as we all dream. Is not it?  I recommend reading. For those who like hot romance, I do not recommend. They are a couple without a “footprint”, but no less interesting. It is a subtle romance, it starts with the dreams of a girl, who throughout history becomes a strong woman, who finds her beloved, not love at first sight, but day by day, they learn to respect themselves, to admire themselves and from there a true and strong love is born. Read it! It’s very beautiful!


An Open Book – February #openbook

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for “An Open Book.”  Here’s what I’ve been reading over the past month (and will be reading this month).

Final Julia's Gifts Front rev

Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1)

My book, Julia’s Gifts, is currently FREE on Kindle.

Come Back to Me Front

Now Available for Pre-Order on Kindle!

Come Back to Me (the sequel to Stay With Me, below)

Synopsis: After his wife, Jamie, kicks him out, Alan moves in with his brother and sister-in-law, who are expecting a baby. As the days turn to months, the prospect of a reunion grows dimmer, and Alan is left to pick up the pieces of his broken marriage while bunking alongside blissfully happy newlyweds.

Megan, Jamie’s friend, is privy to both Jamie’s and Alan’s private woes, meeting Jamie to lend an ear and occupying a barstool next to Alan. Megan’s dissatisfaction with her own life—meaningless hookups, a brother who’s found Jesus, and an increasingly awkward relationship with Jamie and Alan—grows.

Alan comes to his sister-in-law’s aid when she goes into labor, forcing him to act with long-overdue maturity. Meanwhile, through a conversation with her mother, Jamie realizes a skewed perception of her father’s indifference and her own fears have led her to be harder on Alan than he deserves.

Forced to come to terms with her unresolved grief, Megan discovers the need to make amends and start fresh.
A Channel of Your Peace front cover

Available for Pre-Order On Kindle!

A Channel of Your Peace by Veronica Smallhorn

Synopsis: Would a God who truly loves you allow things to get this bad?

Lapsed Catholic Erin Rafferty has the life she always wanted. Or at least she did, till the moment her fiancé of five years announces he’s leaving her for another woman. Heartbroken and humiliated, a further devastating development leaves her wondering if she can ever live a normal life again.

Mark Ashcroft is a devout Catholic looking for an equally devout Catholic wife. A chance encounter with Erin leaves Mark completely captivated, yet deeply unsettled, knowing Erin is not in a place to accept him, nor is she the model Christian woman he’d hoped to start a life with.

A tentative friendship begins, and Erin finds herself questioning her long-held rejection of her faith, while Mark finds himself healing from memories of his own wounded past.

But as love grows, further tragedy in Erin’s life threatens her burgeoning faith and her hope for a future with Mark.

What follows is a difficult journey of love, surrender, trust, and faith in the ultimate knowledge that Christ is always in the midst of our sufferings.


EB new release (1)

Extreme Blindside by Leslea Wahl

Synopsis: After winning silver, teen snowboarder Jake Taylor is struggling with sudden fame when he s offered a gig he can’t refuse: becoming a spokesperson for a state-of-the-art athletic training facility. Training for its first competition, Jake relies on his faith to help him find ways to use his fame to help others… when athletes mysteriously start getting sabotaged one by one. Time is running out for Jake and his girlfriend, Sophie, to figure out what is going on before he is also sabotaged… or worse.

My review: What I enjoy about this author’s writing and stories is that, while they are geared to teens, they’re also great reads for adults! And…there aren’t too many authors who can write in present tense and do it well. Leslea Wahl is one of those authors. Highly recommend!

Left to Die

Left to Die by Lisa Jackson

Synopsis: In the lonely woods around Grizzly Falls, Montana, the first body is discovered, stripped naked and tied to a tree. Alvarez and Pescoli have been hoping for a career-making case, but this is a nightmare. The killer stages car accidents on icy, isolated roads and “rescues” his victims. He toys with them, heals them, earns their trust . . . before subjecting them to a slow, agonizing death.

When Jillian Rivers opens her eyes, she’s trapped in a mangled car. Then a stranger, claiming to be a trail guide, pries her free. Though she’s grateful, something about him sets Jillian on edge. And if she knew what was lying in wait for her, she’d be truly terrified . . .

Even with the FBI involved, Selena and Regan have nothing to go on but a series of cryptic notes, and the unsettling knowledge that there is much worse to come. Piece by piece, the killer’s brutal plan is taking shape. But his final move will be the most shocking—and personal—of all . . .

Review: I enjoyed this book very much.  Great story and characters.  I think one of the reasons Jackson sells so many books is that the Kindle editions are reasonably priced (even for Canadian readers!)  I downloaded this 500 page novel for only 2.99. If you like secular mysteries, you’ll like this one. (Some mildly explicit scenes, which I just skimmed over.)

Stay with Me front cover

Stay With Me by Carolyn Astfalk

Amazon Synopsis: With her sister Abby’s encouragement, Rebecca has moved out of their overbearing father’s home. When a chance encounter with Chris ends with an invitation, Rebecca says yes. The authentic way Chris lives his life attracts Rebecca and garners her affection.

Chris loves Rebecca and her innocence, but he’s confounded by the emotional scars she bears from her parents and an attempted assault. Her father’s disdain for Chris’s faith and career only make matters worse.

With the counsel of their friend Father John, can Rebecca and Chris overcome every obstacle and bridge the deepening gulf between them and her dad? Or will a crucial lapse in judgment and its repercussion end their relationship?

My review: Since we’ve been working on publishing the sequel to this book, I decided to sit down and read this one again to familiarize myself with the characters.  The first time I read it, I couldn’t put it down. It was the same this time.  I know I’m biased because I’m the publisher of this book, but it’s a great read and confirmation of the truth of the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage.


Julia’s Gifts #FREE on #Kindle

Free on kindle revised 2020

My book, Julia’s Gifts (Great War Great Love #1), is FREE today until Thursday.

final julia's gifts front rev

Synopsis: As a young girl, Julia began buying gifts for her future spouse, a man whose likeness and personality she has conjured up in her mind, a man she calls her “beloved.” Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical aid worker, with no experience or training. Disheartened by the realities of war, will Julia abandon the pursuit of her beloved? Will her naïve ‘gift scheme’ distract her from recognizing her true “Great Love?” From Philadelphia to war-torn France, follow Julia as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.


“Touching story of faith and devotion that is sure to leave a lasting impression.” Therese Heckenkamp, award-winning author

“Filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles – great and small – happen all around us.” Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author

“Touched my heart in many ways.” Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“Outstanding and unforgettable book.” Jean Heimann, author, Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World

To download your free ebook, click here.