Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints, & Sages by Judika Illes at my library, I was immediately intrigued and took it home. While the book is meant as a practical guide for those who wish to use these types of beings in their magical rituals, it contained plenty of material that can be utilized for crafting story ideas.
Saints have an interesting and controversial history, religious and otherwise. There were many incredible stories and abilities attributed to them in life: some could levitate, control the elements, were clairvoyant, had magical healing powers, or could withstand incredible pain without lasting effects. Some could supposedly even resurrect the dead, and that's just what they accomplished before they died and began performing miracles.
It got me wondering why we haven't seen saints among the scores of supernatural creatures populating UF stories these days. Writers have gone far beyond vampires and werewolves (although there are still great versions of these popping up now and then), in order to keep things fresh and give readers something unique. Fairies, angels, demons, druids, goblins, selkies, psychics, elementals, ghosts, witches, and more are all taking the stage to introduce urban fantasy fans to original personalities and conflicts. And we've only scratched the surface of mythical possibilities, so why not saints?
The book illuminates some prevailing assumptions about saints. They are not a strictly Christian/Catholic or occidental phenomenon, nor were they all necessarily exceptionally good people while they were alive. The encyclopedia gives information on saints from all over the world, of many different time periods and ethnicities, listing their acts, benefits, and attributes. Several are considered unofficial saints (including Elvis, which makes me chuckle), but all have plenty of history and lore to work with. They can be young or old, of either gender, and express a wide variety of attitudes and values.
Of course, one of the immediate problems with being a saint, is that you have to be dead to earn the title. But that's just a tiny little snag that any good speculative storyteller can navigate. I was particularly struck by a fascinating statement Ms. Illes makes early in the text while comparing saints to other types of spirits: that the natural enemy of the saint is the vampire. Her definition of a vampire is decidedly unlike the creature from modern novels, yet I still find it a compelling image: The saint as a charismatic being so full of life force as to be able to continue sharing it after death, set against the vampire who must consume the same vital energy to survive. Tell me that doesn't get your UF wheels turning.
So, what do you think about a saint as the next urban fantasy hero? Are there any other supernatural types you've been waiting to see in the genre?