Date of Award

January 2016

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

Carter Sickels

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


Come, Set a Spell: A Novel in Stories, centers on the lives of the women of one Kentucky family across several generations. Some of the characters are gifted with the innate, magical abilities associated with Appalachian “wise-women,” a kind of magic that is inextricably linked to the natural world around them. These folk magic practices and beliefs impact all of the characters in different ways. However, the most crucial themes and influences on the lives of these women do not arise from the presence of the magical; instead, their stories are shaped by the ties of family, and family legacy. Each story stands as a complete work, focusing on one or more of the several main characters—sisters Laurel and Heather, their mother, Rose, and their oma (grandmother), Linnea—yet also serves to build a larger narrative arc across the novel as a whole. With careful attention to the importance of setting, and the unique attributes of the magical-realism style, the novel captures a few small facets of the rich traditions of regional folklore that continue to influence the cultures and communities of rural Kentucky/Appalachia. Through an exploration of the lives and voices of these characters, the narrative illuminates the bonds of family, and all its inherent burdens and blessings—its magic.