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Elizabeth Cunningham is the direct descendant of nine generations of Episcopal priests. She grew up hearing rich (sometimes terrifying) liturgical and biblical language. When she was not in church or school, she read fairytales and fantasy novels or wandered in the enchanted wood of an overgrown, abandoned estate next door to the rectory. Her religious background, the magic of fairytales, and the numinous experience of nature continue to inform her work.
After being altogether too good and studious during her earliest years, Cunningham was expelled from a progressive boarding school for nudity. She subsequently earned a GED and went on to The College of General Studies at Boston University. From there she transferred to Harvard-Radcliffe College where graduated in 1976 with BA in English and American language and literature. Somehow, she resisted the temptation to go to seminary to study for the Episcopal priesthood. The possibility was especially tempting, because, at that time, ordination of women was not allowed. When the church ruled in favor of women’s ordination a few months later, she heaved a sigh of relief and went on writing the The Wild Mother, her first novel, hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a beguiling tour de force.”
The Passion of Mary Magdalen, the centerpiece of The Maeve Chronicles, is Cunningham’s fifth novel, and the book she believes she was born to write. Her other novels include The Return of the Goddess, a Divine Comedy; The Wild Mother; and How to Spin Gold, a Woman’s Tale (to be re-released by Monkfish). Magdalen Rising, the prequel to The Passion of Mary Magdalen was published in 2007. Bright Dark Madonna, the sequel, is forthcoming in April 2009. A fourth and final Maeve Chronicle is in progress.