Review, Giveaway and Author Q&A: Damascena by Holly Lynn Payne

I received an Advanced Copy of this novel from the publisher.  Please read my review and the Q&A with author Holly Payne.  Scroll to the bottom of the post to win one of two copies of Damascena: One hardcopy (US/CAN), one e-book (INT).

My Review:

Damascena_Select_v2This book is an eclectic blend of historical fiction, mysticism and fantasy.  Damascena is born in a monastery in 13th Century Persia and shortly after her birth her mother disappears and Damascena is raised by a monk named Ivan.  The last thing that Ivan wants to do is raise a child, but he gradually becomes possessive over Damascena to the point where he will let very few people interact with her.  He will also not tell her anything about her  mother or where she came from.

Damascena eventually escapes the monastery and Ivan and, although she is only 12 years old at this point in the story, she lives in a white house at the edge of a town. She is looked after by a mysterious man she calls Shams.  Shams shows her the importance of roses, the ways in which to cultivate the roses and the power of protection that they have over Damascena.  She learns how to distill roses and collect their oil which seems to have some kind of magical power.  People begin to believe that Damascena is a saint and is capable of miracles.

Eventually during the story Damascena meets Rumi who is a Perisan mystic and poet.  He tries to make Damascena believe in and value herself despite the fact that she is an orphan.  With Rumi, Damascena grows spiritually and learns the secrets of the Rose.

DAMASCENA is rich in historical detail about 13th Century Persia and I learned quite a bit about the time period and Rumi the poet from this novel.

This giveaway is for one paperback (US/CAN) and one e-book (INT) copy of Damascena.  Please let a comment below and let me know that you are interested in reading this book.  The winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to responds.  Thanks for entering!  Giveaway ends 11/7.

The Winners Are:

Lucy G. (hard copy) and Mary P. (ebook)


About The Author:
H. PayneHolly Lynn Payne is an award-winning, internationally published author, writing coach and founder of Skywriter Books, a digital press and publishing consultancy. She is the author of four books. Her third novel, Kingdom of Simplicity, based on true story of forgiveness after she was struck by a drunk driver, won the Benjamin Franklin Award and was nominated for a national book award in Belgium. It has been published in the Netherlands, China and Taiwan.

Payne has served on the faculty of the Academy of Art University, California College of the Arts and Stanford, and loves helping people reclaim their voice through storytelling. She can sometimes be found hiking with her young daughter on Mt. Tam. She received her MFA from USC and writes stories of inspiration at

Her recent novel, DAMASCENA: the tale of rose and Rumi (Skywriter Books, 2014), explores the secrets of love during the time of Rumi. Foreign rights have been sold to Hungary and Turkey, where it will be published in 2015.  You can visit her website:

Author Q&A:

1. What was your inspiration for this story?
Two things. First, my daughter. The book is dedicated to her and her middle name is Rose. Second, I ended up at Rumi’s tomb in Konya, Turkey while doing research for my first novel, The Virgin’s Knot. I was fascinated to learn who Rumi was and couldn’t wait to learn more. I also had learned about rose oil production when I was in Turkey and was inspired to return to the world’s most famous rose production region — the Valley of The Roses in Bulgaria. I couldn’t believe that it took nearly 4 tons of rose petals to distill one kilogram of rose oil. That’s a ton of roses. I was hooked and compelled to travel to collect research for the book.

2. Give us insight into the main characters. What is it about these characters that will appeal to readers or draw readers to them?
The heroine is Damascena. She’s an orphaned girl with an extraordinary gift for turning roses into rose oil and is mistaken as a saint for the miracles she performs. She wants nothing to do with this and only wants to find her mother. She’s raised by a tyrannical monk, Ivan Balev, who is the antagonist, a deeply wounded young man who assumes the responsibility of caring for Damascena when she’s born. Damascena escapes Ivan’s abuse and meets a mysterious man, Shams of Tabriz, who mentors her and shows her how to grow roses. Later, he sends her on a journey to deliver her last vial of rose oil to his dear friend, Rumi, in Konya, Turkey. It is Rumi who initiates the girl into the transformative dance of the whirling dervishes and helps her unlock the secret of the rose.

3. How much research did you do before developing and creating characters for your book(s)?
I do a ton of research. My background is journalism. I usually spend time in the location of my story world first. My books are set in fairly exotic destinations, which is just a great excuse for me to see the world and explore new cultures. I don’t do character bibles but I do a lot of free writing, just to get a sense of who they are, what matters, what terrifies them, what they want, what they don’t have, who they love, who scares them, etc. This starts to form a more three-dimensional person, and then I discover more while I write.

4. What are you currently writing?
Juggling a whole lot. Anyone laughing or relating? Seems like the fall is always such a busy time. I’ve just gave a Google Author Talk in September. I’ve never done something like this so every day, my belly was doing the butterfly dance, but I was excited to talk about the technology of the heart—as it relates to Rumi and the Sufi practice of dancing sema that I wrote about in Damascena. I’ve also started a new book, my first YA novel that takes place in present time on the houseboats in Sausalito, where Shell Silverstein once lived. It’s inspired by that little fact and Shell plays a big role in the book.




Filed under Author Interviews, Giveaways, Historical Fiction

7 responses to “Review, Giveaway and Author Q&A: Damascena by Holly Lynn Payne

  1. It’s always challenging to convey the greatness of influential historical persons in fiction, and particularly so when it is spiritual greatness one wishes to depict authentically–I always admire the attempt! It sounds as though Holly Lynn Payne has created a fictional home in which some of the most dramatic elements of Rumi’s life can be played out, with a focal character, Damascena, to mirror for us the profound impact such a teacher can have. I look forward to reading it!


  2. Mary Preston

    A very interesting story line & cover. Yes please!!


  3. Good morning, Damascena sounds like a book I would enjoy reading. Thank you


  4. anne

    Damascena sounds intriguing and memorable. Thanks for this great feature and giveaway.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s