Blog featuring mostly 

Paranormal Books.
Including Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
and Young Adult.

But hey, as long as it has at
least SOME Romance in it I'm a happy girl.
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Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

There are probably a million and one PNR vs. UF articles out there describing the difference between the two. So you may ask why am I posting yet another one? Well, for one because I can. :) But also because there’s obviously still confusion out there about it from what I see in the book community, so I suppose one more article about it wouldn’t hurt. lol

At this point, I think I have a pretty good understanding of the difference between Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, so for anyone who doesn’t feel like they have a grasp on it, I made a pretty little chart describing the key differences!

Below the chart I’ll go ahead and ramble on with my explanation anyways, because what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t enjoy rambling on? I will also address where Young Adult Paranormal books fit into the two categories.

Paranormal vs. Urban Fantasy Comparison

For those of you who are less visual and would like to read it out instead…

Paranormal Romance

A paranormal romance series has multiple books with completely different main characters (primarily the hero/heroine) for each book. Of course, background characters can be the same as most PNRs tend to take place around one particular group of people. But the primary characters (hero/heroine) who receive a point of view (POV), will be different in each book.

Generally each book will alternate between the hero/heroine’s point of views, and sometimes there will also be a couple of side characters who get their own point of view and story as well (but to a smaller degree).

A paranormal romance will also focus primarily on the romance, with there most of the time being a secondary conflict outside the romance. But the actual relationship between the hero/heroine is the primary focus of the story and everything else is secondary.

Another rule of thumb is that a PNR book will always end with a happily ever after (HEA) sort of feel at the end of each book. There may be a continuation of the background conflict throughout the series, but the couple who’s POVs we were just inside have received their HEA together within one book.

A few examples of PNR series:
Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward Dark-Hunter by Sherrilyn Kenyon Lords of the Underworld by Gena Showalter Immortals After Dark by Kresley Cole
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Urban Fantasy

Now, with an urban fantasy what gets to be confusing I think for some people is that there can be a romance going on. But, this romance is always secondary to the bigger story/conflict. You can tell if it’s secondary a couple of different ways.

First off, the bigger plot/story generally tends to be more interesting than in a PNR. I’m sorry, that’s just a fact. You can sort of tell that the bigger story was more thought out and not worked around the romance itself, but rather the romance was worked around the conflict.

You can also tell because the hero/heroine are not constantly boinking each other. :) There might be sexual tension and we might get a few sex scenes, but it will be nothing to the degree of a PNR, and the sex scenes we do get will usually remain fairly brief.

Aside from the romance, an urban fantasy will generally be from the point of view of one person and generally that person is a female. Of course, depending on the series you’re reading, those two things could be different. I’ve read a few series’ that I would consider urban fantasy that were from multiple view points and also some where the primary view point is a male. But, in general it will be one POV from a female.

A few examples of UF series:
Fever by Karen Marie Moning Night Huntress by Jeaniene Frost Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews
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Young Adult Paranormal

Now here’s where it gets really confusing though. How do you categorize a young adult paranormal book? Well, in general I personally categorize all of them as urban fantasy. Although many of them focus primarily on the romance (with the conflict secondary), the hero/heroine’s relationship spans multiple books and (usually) the book is from the female’s perspective with no POV for the hero.

It’s kind of one of those things that you just have to make a judgement call on. Many of them tend to be such a mashup of both PNR and UF that it’s hard to tell. Take for example the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. The POV switches between the hero/heroine like a PNR would do, and the primary focus of the story is their romance. So that’s a tough one. The only real thing that makes me think of them as UF instead is the relationship spanning more than one book.

So when it comes to young adult books, I think how you categorize them is left more open to interpretation. I generally just categorize them as UF. There’s usually no sex and the romance is also mild (given that it’s YA), so that’s just how I see it.


So did that clear up anything for those of you who were confused or did I just make it worse? Did I miss any other major differences?

17 Responses to Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

  1. Oh thanks for clearing this up. I didn't know there was a difference.

  2. aurian says:

    I totally agree with your list Sarah, nicely done. Love your banners! I do miss Christine Feehan's series, especially her Carpathians.

  3. Rubysreads says:

    The problem with a chart like this is that my mind automatically wings towards exceptions. For example, I'd classify Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter books as PNR, but the first three books of the series tell Raphael and Elena's story. There's also the fact that the Fever series and the Night Huntress books are classified as "Romances" when you go to look for them in a bookstore. For what that's worth…
    I think that the emphasis on the sex and romance is the only way to differentiate a PNR from a UF. All the rest is icing on the cake–it can (and does) vary from book to book, though there are trends. Totally love your chart, btw. It's gorgeous!
    Also, a note on Paranormal (w/o the romance) and Urban Fantasy:
    My father, who is as avid a reader as I am, argues that in a Paranormal, the fantastical element is not known by the world at large. And, in an Urban Fantasy, the fantastical elements are known by all. I'm not certain I buy this, but it's one more perspective on a hot topic.

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    • Interesting points. As for Guild Hunter, Fever, and Night Huntress, I totally consider those as Urban Fantasy because the majority of the story is about the bigger conflict going in. There are romantic moments here and there and there are definitely relationships building up, but it is not the primary focus of each individual book.

      But of course, there are always exceptions so it's hard to classify them. Which is why this will be an ongoing debate! lol As for where they classify them in the bookstores. I think that pretty much anything that has any kind of romance geared towards women they plop in the romance section to attract readers. I wouldn't consider them romances though. But hey, that's just my opinion.

      Also that's an interesting look at UF vs. Paranormal. I tend to think of them as one in the same, because Para + normal pretty much is another way of saying fantasy + urban. But that's just one to look at it. Definitely something to think about though! :)
      My recent post Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

      • I completely agree with you about Night Huntress, Fever and Guild Hunter being Urban Fantasies. There's no way I would put any of those as Paranormal Romance. What I can argue however, is the famous Anita Blake series, that later focus a lot on sex, yet isn't PNR at all. I know many are calling it Erotic Urban Fantasy at the moment…

        I think this debate can continue with any genres that are close. Romances to me are when the main conflict is the love between two people. Then something happens, usually to one of them, which becomes an issue. The ones mentioned above do have bigger issues mainly, which is the difference, even if they have quite a lot of romance/sex/sexual tension at times.

        And about bookstores, I wouldn't really trust those since I usually find my paranormals under either Fantasy or Science-Fiction…

        About the Urban Fantasies vs. Paranormal Rubysread mentions, I've thought of that too! I definitely think it's true in many cases, but I don't see it being true for over 50% of the ones I've read… Lol.

        A great post!
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  4. fairypenguin says:

    I have struggled with this little classification issue a lot, and in the end I've given up on trying to apply firm labels. There are so many books that sit on the fence between the two. And whats worse, sometimes a series starts out as one and ends up another. My general rule is, I call something a Romance Novel if the relationship is central to the story and has the most page time devoted to it. Anything else, I just refer to as "a book with strong/subtle/weak romantic elements".

    Because the thing is…sometimes Romance Novels are told over several books from the same first person POV. Sometimes it takes awhile to get to the HEA. Sometimes there's not a lot of sex. But the romance is still the big point, so they are Romance Novels.
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  5. Michelle says:

    What a great post! This definitely helped me distinguish between the two. And your chart is so cute! I love it!

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  6. BJ says:

    Excellent article! I have chart envy. :)

    Only thing I would add is that in UF, a happily-ever-after isn't guaranteed. Kim Harrison's The Hollows and Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassins are examples of UF where the heroine goes through more than one romantic relationship – not a problem for me personally, but I know readers who expected Guy #1 to last through the whole series and were upset.
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    • Oh yes, awesome point. Definitely. I sort of hate that. lol But you're right, it is that way in a lot of UFs. I don't mind so much if there is a love triangle/square/hexagon (lol) from the very beginning. But it is disappointing when you're already attached to guy #1 and then she moves on to someone else. I guess it's realistic, but still. *pout* :)
      My recent post Paranormal Romance vs. Urban Fantasy

  7. Lexi says:

    Love the chart comparisons =)

  8. melliane says:

    It was very interesting to read ! Thanks !

  9. Great post. This was especially helpful to me. I think both the “paranormal” term and the “urban” term is misleading so it is hard to figure out.

    Personally, they seem so similar to me that it seems like they can be one genre. I guess the distinction is helpful when you aren’t big on romance.

  10. Bookaholic says:

    This was especially helpful to me. I don't think the terms "paranormal" and "urban" are helpful in figuring it out. At times, these seem to bleed into each other or be so similar that I don't see the point of the distinction.

    I guess it is helpful if people aren't as into romance. Great post.
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    • That's exactly why it's good to know. It's also kind of nice to know what to expect from the romance going into the book. I love both genres, but sometimes I'm wanting a little more of a story than just mindless romance so I would pick up a UF instead of a PNR (and vice versa).

      Glad it was helpful for you! :)
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  12. Liz @Fictional Candy says:

    This is definitely one of the easiest ways to explain it that I've seen. And I'm always second guessing the books I read. This post really helps! Thanks!!!!!

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