Angels, it seems, are not just for Christmas. Authors and film-makers are rushing to bring out books and movies starring celestial beings to cash in on the latest publishing craze.
Not that readers should expect redemption from the slew of new stories hitting the shelves. Many of the winged protagonists have a darker side that publishers hope will tap into the booming supernatural genre, which Stephenie Meyer set alight with her Twilight vampire series.
Booksellers are already reporting strong interest in many of the new fallen angels titles, including Lauren Kate's Fallen and Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush, which hit the bestselling lists on its debut. WH Smith has tipped angels to be a "strong trend" for it next year, while Waterstone's said that fallen angels – so called because they have had their wings clipped for being bad and then they fall to earth – had "struck a chord" with its children's buying team.
"These angels appear as normal angels but they are very dark. A bit like vampires. But instead of sucking blood they suck human energy and life force, which they need to survive," said Megan Larkin, Usborne's fiction editor. She has commissioned the children's author L A Weatherly to write a trilogy about renegade angels, due out next autumn.
As with vampires such as Twilight's Edward Cullen, the new angels are igniting strong feelings from their opposite sexes in the human world. Cindy Hwang, executive editor at Berkley Books, a Penguin imprint that publishes J R Ward's "Covet" series, said: "Angels appeal because they are larger than life, more beautiful, sexier and more sensual creations. Fallen angels have the same flaws that ordinary people have, which is attractive. If someone can tame such a powerful being and get them to fall in love with them, then that's very seductive."
Analysts expect the new paranormal love interest further to buoy the young adult publishing category, which has seen sales rocket this year on the back of demand for vampire titles.
Fallen angels are also emerging as a major theme in Hollywood, with next month's Legion, starring Paul Bettany as an errant messenger, the first of several similar movies in the pipeline. Earlier this month, Disney picked up the rights to Fallen, which is handily the first in a four-part series, and Will Smith is working on an adaptation of Danielle Trussoni's Angelology for Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Ms Hwang said interest in angels, which last surfaced in the early 1990s, had been rekindled by the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world in 2012. "People are thinking about the apocalypse. That's why the angel craze this time is darker. The ambiguity reflects how we feel about the world," she added.
Rose Fox, fantasy reviews editor at the trade magazine Publishers Weekly, said: "If these stories are particularly compelling at the moment, perhaps it's because the world is full of questions and fears right now. Readers who blame themselves for their misfortune may find comfort in stories of angels who broke rules or failed at tasks and are given second chances. Readers struggling with uncertainty may enjoy the idea of a cosmic plan."
That uncertainty has also rekindled interest in more traditional angel books, featuring guardian angels rather than fallen ones. The most popular is Lorna Byrne's Angels in My Hair, which has sold about 60,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan. Judith Kendra, publishing director at Rider, said: "These are usually stories of great comfort that touch on all of our feelings of vulnerability now that we all live very individual lives away from our family. People like to feel there is somebody or something watching out for them and trying to help."
God is angry with humankind and is taking his revenge via an army of angels sent to wipe the world clean of humanity. Can Paul Bettany, who plays a fallen angel, right, stop them? In cinemas from 5 March.
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Angels in my Hair
An autobiography by Lorna Byrne, a modern-day mystic who grew up "seeing angels" such as the Archangel Michael and the prophet Elijah.Reuse content