The best horror novels with Catholic themes

The Books I Picked & Why

Brother Wolf

By Eleanor Bourg Nicholson

Book cover of Brother Wolf

Why this book?

Brother Wolf represents one of the rarest of rare combinations: great horror, great humor, and a coherent Catholic metaphysics that underlies the fantasy. The daughter of a dull, disillusioned academic finds adventure in the company of a mysterious young woman who reads minds, a Breton nun, a Dominican vampire slayer, and an English gentleman-warrior who are in hot pursuit of a feral Franciscan werewolf. Murderous gypsies and demon goddesses dog their heels. With a cast of characters like that, how could any horror-lover resist? Eleanor Bourg Nicholson is truly one-of-a-kind, showcasing an encyclopedic knowledge of literature, mythology, and Catholic doctrine alongside her inimitable prose and rollicking sense of fun. You can’t go wrong with her books.

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The Exorcist

By William Peter Blatty

Book cover of The Exorcist

Why this book?

Did you know that William Peter Blatty called The Exorcist “an apostolic work” and “an argument for God”? Far more than just titillating, gruesome imagery, The Exorcist is about the battle for a young girl’s soul and the souls of those around her. It underscores the limits of modern psychology in addressing truly spiritual problems and forces the reader to consider the limits of rational science, challenging even a man of faith to look beyond his worldly blinders. The only reason it does not rank as #1 is that I think Blatty could have pushed his “argument” just one step further at the end.

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This Thing of Darkness

By K.V. Turley, Fiorella De Maria

Book cover of This Thing of Darkness

Why this book?

After Bram Stoker and Vlad the Impaler, the real person most closely associated with vampires has to be Bela Lugosi—so why not write a horror novel with him as the villain? This book underscores the important role that unsettling and dramatic occurrences can play in shaking us out of our own accustomed vices, as well as the difficulty we often face when trying to discern the difference between the works of evil and the truly mundane. After all, Bela Lugosi is nothing more than a tired, sad old man still pining for his glory days on the silver screen—isn’t he?

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Whisper Music

By J.B. Toner

Book cover of Whisper Music

Why this book?

Part horror novel, part hard-boiled detective story, part Hollywood summer blockbuster, Whisper Music is an eclectic grab bag of a story that probably shouldn’t work, but it does. J.B. Toner has an unmatched ability to integrate soaring, lyrical prose with low-brow cop-speak in a book where a vampire does battle against the Virgin Mary. With both the blood of the Virgin and the blood of Satan in her veins, Danyaela Morrigan finds herself uniquely positioned to play both sides of a great spiritual battle, while at the same time being torn between them. Hold on to your hats. You’re in for a treat.

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Hide Me Among the Graves

By Tim Powers

Book cover of Hide Me Among the Graves

Why this book?

Tim Powers is an acknowledged modern master of the preternatural, but many readers probably don’t know he’s also a practicing Catholic. In Hide Me Among the Graves, his passion for the Romantic poets brings poor Christina Rossetti, her family, and others both historical and fictional under the sway of her vampire-uncle John Polidori, author of The Vampyre. Powers’s wild imagination casts the Thames River as Purgatory, songbirds as soul-catchers, and vampires as the ancient Biblical Nephilim. It’s a kitchen sink approach to fantasy that will keep readers guessing until the end.

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