Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


An “Irish Modern-Day Mystic” Gives Us Messages from the Angel Realm


Considering her impact on the world, Lorna Byrne is petite and soft spoken. The Irish brogue that has stayed intact despite her trips around the world, is delicate and one strains to capture every word. Sometimes she doesn’t know what English word to use, and often says, “I don’t know what you call it here in America….”. She may also say things like “Rosmantic,” when speaking about something “romantic.” And, during the recent Q & A at the Marble Collegiate Church at 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, responded that since she is dyslexic, she doesn’t read much, not much “at ‘tall.”

Maybe you’ve heard of her, maybe not, but she is an international number one bestselling author of books on the angel realm.  It’s a topic that has not gotten much play in the past, but is growing in popularity, as if it “had wings.” Though she had been communicating with angels since a toddler growing up in Dublin, Ireland. Not only had she been communicating with them, the angels made themselves known to her almost on a daily basis. Because of her young age, and seemingly to be in her a “world of my own,” her parents and the family doctor believed Lorna was “retarded.” She was a late talker, though she’d been “conversing with angels from very early on.”  Lorna believed that everyone could see “beings floating in the air like feathers…being fascinated with their beautiful lights.”

Born in the 1950’s, it wasn’t until 2008 when Lorna shared her experiences in her memoir, Angels In My Hair. She had been instructed not to speak of her gift until the time was right, and even her children, though they knew their mom was different, didn’t know the whole story. She was told that at the right time, a publisher would come to her for her story, and that she’d write it, despite the little schooling and lack of writing experience. And that’s the way it happened.

Angels at My Fingertips

On an unusually warm February evening, Lorna was the guest of the Open Center and discussed her recent book Love from Heaven with Alan Steinfeld, host and producer of New Realities, a New York City cable show featuring religious leaders and artists from around the world. The Marble Collegiate Church offers a perfect environment for such an event with its stunning Tiffany windows, and inclusive community where all are welcome. “There is a profound yearning in our world,” Lorna said, of why her message is resonating with so many people; her books hitting number one the minute they’re released. “Even if you don’t believe, your angels are with you.” She then described the angels she can see in the great church. “There are angels here carrying the American flag,” she says, “And the flags are waving as if there’s wind and by each angel’s heart is a dove holding a green twig.” What this means, she explains, is that we will get through all the doubts and hatred being felt around the world.

“America,” Lorna says, “is the bright spot in the world, the place filled with every culture in the world, and an example of how we can get along.” She says that as soon as she lands in America, “the streets sparkle like diamonds….I don’t see that in any other country. My friends back in Ireland get so mad when I say that.”

Lorna has written seven books, all bestsellers, and each one covering either a message from the angels, of stories of her life. Called a “modern day Irish mystic,” Lorna grew up poor in Old Kilmainham, and because she didn’t go to school, learned office work in her father’s business. Every day the angels communicated messages to her about what happens after death, about what people carry in their hearts, about her own future including when she’d meet the man she’d marry and the children they would have.  Her husband, Joe, died at an early age, an experience that Lorna knew would come; she also knew that she would struggle financially after he died, but that she would write the book. Lorna used to “laugh” when the angels told her about her book writing since with the dyslexia, she could “hardly read or write.”

Today, Lorna is welcomed around the world, and seems to be always on tour. As she looks around the church, she tells the crowd – and, indeed, it was a full house – that we all have a guardian angel who is assigned to us at birth, and is always at the ready to assist when called upon.  That’s the secret. “We have to ask for their help, we should always thank them, and remember that we are all pure love, and that our soul is a little piece of God inside all of us.”

Regarding the current occupant in the White House, Lorna appears unconcerned and says, “Your president is a little wobbly, like a baby.  Every president needs the guidance of the people. You have to pray for your president, and stand up and take your part.” Lorna sees a bright future for America, that all faiths will be able to come together. Her reminder before she led the audience through a prayer to the Archangel Michael, is “To pray… you don’t know how powerful it is.”

Lorna Byrne has a sequel to her memoir,  Angels in My Hair, coming out in April. Called, Angels at my Fingertips, this book chronicles how the angels helped her through the traumatic events in her adult life. Visit lornabyrne.com for touring information and book releases.

The Open Center, 22 East 30 Street, presents a comprehensive range of holistic programs. Upcoming events focus on medical intuitiveness, learning tools for balance and peace of mind, and reiki.  For their full schedule visit opencenter.org.

Top photo credit: Alenushka Kremer

Ireland’s “Alternative Wall”


In a week when the phrase “alternative facts” slithered into the public discourse in the land of my birth, imagine my gratitude to know that Ireland, the land of my ancestry, is committed to building an “alternative wall.”

This wall has a name: “Creative Ireland.” And, like any good wall, it is built upon solid pillars that mark its strength.

The difference is that this structure is designed to embrace and include and inspire. Ireland’s ambitious five-year initiative will support, encourage and empower the worlds of the arts, education and commerce.  It will be for all Ireland’s children, on the island and in all its vast global diaspora. And listen to this: Ireland has pledged to invest its own taxpayers’ Euros into achieving its success. Putting its money where its mouth is, so to speak, the country tells its friends across the globe that it believes that Ireland has always been great and that its people’s gifts of creativity are the key to make it even more so.

ICR_3630Creative Ireland kick-off event

The first outlines of Creative Ireland became known in December.  It was at the culmination of a remarkable centennial celebration year that inspired members of Ireland’s global diaspora to mount more than 3000 commemorations and celebrations across the globe.

By the time Barbara Jones, Ireland’s dynamic Consul General gathered a broad cross section of Ireland’s friends and extended family in her New York constituency to announce details of Creative Ireland, the concept of wall-building had begun to dominate conversations.  So, it was with a touch of gallows humor that they learned that Ireland’s “alternative wall” would be built upon five solid “pillars.” An Taoiseach (the Irish for Prime Minister) had put forward this description of what was announced here in midtown New York. This is how its inclusive architecture was described.

Creative Ireland is built around five pillars:

  • Enabling the Creative Potential of Every Child
  • Enabling Creativity in Every Community
  • Investing in our Creative and Cultural Infrastructure
  • Ireland as a Center of Excellence in Media Production
  • Unifying our Global Reputation

At the January 13 event, Consul General Jones welcomed Ireland’s Minster for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys who addressed a gathering that included pioneers whose daring has been responsible for an increasingly varied, honored and ambitious outpouring of cultural and commercial enterprises in this New York Consular area (and indeed across the US).  These super-achievers and their audiences symbolized the values that have come to our country via immigration.

They “got it” when Minister Humphreys said, “Creative Ireland, as an Ireland 2016 legacy project, is inspired by the extraordinary public response to the Centenary Program. During the year. thousands of cultural events were held around the country, bringing people together in shared reflections on identity, culture and citizenship that combined history, arts, heritage and language. We now want to build on the success of the commemorations and plan ambitiously for our arts and culture sectors for the years ahead.”

heather humphreysMinister Heather Humphreys

Consul General Jones stated that Creative Ireland was simply the best thing that had come from Ireland’s diaspora in the US in a very long time.

The Irish Times coverage of the new program noted that the Irish government has allocated some one million Euros to promoting Ireland’s arts and culture in the US.  These are broadly defined as including the creative infrastructure and its industries, including media, architecture, design, digital technology, fashion, food and crafts.

Audience members included luminaries of the much-honored Irish Repertory Theater, the expanding Irish Arts Center, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, American Irish Historical Society and voices of Ireland’s film, music and graphic arts enterprises.  The rest of the launch event included statements and performances by champions of creativity and culture from Aidan Connelly of the Irish Arts Center who reminded the audience that Shelley honored creatives as “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”; and Garry Hynes, the founder of the Druid Theater whose production of a 20th Anniversary revival of Martin McDonagh’s Tony Award winning The Beauty Queen of Leenane is currently running in New York at BAM. She called culture and creativity “nothing less and nothing more than the weather of our souls.” Ireland has issued an invitation to the country and its friends to “make an important statement to ourselves and to the world about the interdependency of culture, identity and citizenship.”

The mission statement of Creative Ireland defines creativity as a set of innate abilities and learned skills: the capacity of individuals and organizations to transcend accepted ideas and norms and by drawing on imagination to create new ideas that bring additional value to human activity. Those are the building blocks for an “alternative wall.”

Noting that, “Creative Ireland puts culture and creativity at the center of public policy,” the country’s leader lends encouragement to all who are considering walls, to seek ones that expand to match the scope of people’s dreams.  Now that sounds like a wall worth building.

To learn more about Creative Ireland visit the website.

All photos James Higgins. Opening photo is of Barbara Jones, Consul General of Ireland.

The Women of Irish Literature


Ireland has long been rightly renowned as a country of storytellers that has birthed such legendary authors as Johnathon Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce. But with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and this being the year of Hillary Clinton’s historic candidacy it seems appropriate to consider some of Ireland’s leading female authors. Many of the books by these authors are out of print, but a handful have been reissued for succeeding generations to enjoy. Click on a book’s cover to learn more and order on Amazon.

Anne Burke (1780-1805) Anne has once worked as a governess and after finding herself widowed with a son to support she took up writing. She specialized in Gothic novels and was one of the earliest women writers in the genre.

Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) Also known as Lady Gilbert, Rose was a novelist, poet, and playwright. She originally wanted to be a painter but received encouragement in her literary aspirations from Charles Dickens! Dickens greatly admired her work and encouraged her to continue. Her first novel Dumana was published in 1864 under the pen name Ruth Murray.

Edith Somerville (1858-1949) and Violet Martin (1862-1915) These two ladies were cousins who wrote under the pseudonym of Somerville and Ross. Together they published a total of fourteen novels and collections of stories until Violet’s death in 1915.  Whereupon Edith continued to publish works under “Somerville and Ross,” claiming that she and Violet continued to collaborate via spiritualist séances.

M.E. Francis (1859-1930) M.E. Francis was the pen name of Mary Elizabeth Brundell an astonishingly prolific novelist who published dozens of works, she was described as being the best known female novelist of her time.

Jesse Louisa Rickard (1876-1963) Though she didn’t publish her first novel Young Mr. Gibbs (1912) until she was 36, Jesse was an extremely prolific writer who published over forty novels ranging from light comedy to crime novels.  She was a founding member of the Detective Writers Club along with Dorothy Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, and Agatha Christie.

Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Kate was an novelist and playwright whose books dealt with themes of female agency and sexuality. At the time this was quite controversial, in fact it was so controversial that her 1936 novel Mary Lavelle was banned in Ireland and Spain while her 1941 novel The Land of Spices was banned in Ireland on publication.

Deirdre Purcell (born 1945) Dierdre is a former stage actress as well as having done tv and press journalism. She has published twelve critically acclaimed novels all of which have been best sellers in Ireland.

Anne Enright (born 1962)  While Anne had won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and the 2001 Encore award she was still relatively obscure until her 2007 novel The Gathering won the 2007 Man Booker Prize-a decision that was made unanimously by the jury. Since then she has written two more novel The Forgotten Waltz (2011) which was short-listed for the Orange Prize and won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and The Green Road (2015) which won the award for Irish Novel of the Year.

Tana French (born 1973) Tana is a theatrical actress and novelist whose debut novel Into the Woods (2007) won the Edgar and Anthony awards for best first novel.  She is referred to as the First Lady of Irish Crime and she has another novel The Trespasser scheduled for release this August.

Eimear McBride (born 1976) Eimear wrote her debut novel A Girl is a Half Formed Thing in just six months but it took nine years to get it published. The book then went on to win numerous awards including the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction and Desmond Elliott Prize for debut novelists.