By Elizabeth McCafferty
Karen Kay is a fairy and mermaid whisperer. After leaving her career as a news editor and journalist for the BBC, she followed what she felt was her true calling and submerged herself full-time into the enchanted realm. She is now founder and editor of ‘Fae’ magazine as well as the creator of her own mermaid and fairy oracle cards. She connects people globally to the world of fairies, mermaids, unicorns and gnomes to pass on information and guidance.
I talk to Karen to understand a little bit more about her unusual and fascinating career and what led her to it.
What was your first encounter in the enchanted world?
When I was young, I went to live with my grandmother in South London. She loved gardening and I remember looking up at her pruning the roses, the petals would fall down; I’d gather them to make ‘perfume’. I would leave it out overnight as gifts to the flower fairies and the next day, it would be gone.
I just trusted what was going on, I used to see fairies as little points of light dancing around. They live on parallel realm to us, but they can kind of penetrate through which is why sometimes people can see them.
I had my first connection to a mermaid when I was about 18. I'd been a musician since I was 15 playing in bands. One day I was doing a gig in Hackney and I met the lead singer of another band and we just connected. He said, “come and live with me in Cornwall” …and I was like, “okay”! I literally packed up all of my stuff, threw it in the back of the band's van and went to Cornwall. As soon as I arrived, my heart knew it was home; I was so close to all the different types of nature. The mermaid energy just came into me. I channelled it through art, drawing and painting different types of mermaids and mermen; this went on for months.
What are the differences between speaking to a fairy and speaking to a mermaid?
Might I add… unicorns and gnomes too and all the others that are part of what we know as: the Elemental Kingdom. Fairies are guardians of the earth, and mermaids are guardians of the waters.
Fairies don't have much concept of what it is to be human. When they find a human, who is open and receptive to them, they will inspire and throw ideas at you all the time. Ultimately, their objective is to protect the land and the environment, A by-product of fairies is they're also magical, and can shapeshift. They can influence things and make things happen…but they're not little genies where we can rub the lamp and say, “I'd like this, this, this”, you can put your orders out there… whether they help you or not, is another thing. You have to meet them halfway.
Mermaids have a completely different energy. If you think about the depth of ocean and how the moon affects the water and the moon brings up our emotions, it's all about emotions, feelings and the depth of things. Mermaids come in much slower, more fluid and inspire in different ways.
Did you ever doubt your belief in fairies as you got older?
When I was in my teenage years, I was a bit of a rebel and into the punk and goth scene, I’d even wear fairy wings on my back! I did start questioning the lights that I was seeing and doubted myself. I thought, what if there's actually something wrong with me, am I really seeing lights? Worried it could be an actual medical condition, I booked an eye test; but it was confirmed I had nothing wrong with my eyes. I didn't know how cool it was to believe in fairies but my first ever tattoo was a fairy on my back! Fairies have always stayed with me.
How did you make being a fairy and mermaid whisperer your career… what were you doing before?
When I was at school, I was a little bit of a naughty student. I'd be at the back of the class putting on makeup (typical mischievous fairy energy). I remember thinking at school, “I want to be a model actress or singer, and the school can't teach me any of this stuff”!
I don't consider myself to be an academic person, but I had this kind of self-given/inspired mission. I put myself through as a mature student and did a postgraduate diploma in broadcast journalism in 2000. I ended up working as a journalist and later news editor for the BBC. I felt like I really wanted to shine a light in the media and always felt like there could be more positive stories.
I did really enjoy my time there, but I was there when 911 happened and that was a pivotal moment for me. I'm quite sensitive, I'm an empath, the energy of all of that coming through the newsroom and speaking to somebody who was at the scene really affected me. I could just feel like my heart was going out of my work.
I left soon after thinking, “is this the right decision?” I spent so much money studying, working for the BBC and lots of other things. But I thought, “okay, what do I do with these skills? There must be something, this can't be for nothing”. I had the idea to write a magazine. I’d already done a couple of events within the fairy community, like the Earth Health Mystic Fair. I wanted to create a publication for the community I met, like an adult fairy lifestyle magazine, with fashion and folklore and stories. The magazine is still going today and has been distributed all over the world!
In 2003, I did my first ‘fairy angel and healing’ fair. That was the first time that I'd actually introduced fairies in a prominent way into my work. My work was becoming so popular- it just grew, it took up so much time for me that I couldn't do it as a sideline, it had to be a business! In 2006 the fairy scene in the UK really took off. I don't want to say I'm the founder of the British fairy scene, but I played a very big role in it in bringing people together because there wasn't anything like what I was doing. I did my very first fairy ball, I wanted to create an event that felt like a fairyland nightclub for adults. I wanted to make a safe space for people to dress up and just have fun, there were hundreds of other people who felt the same and it sold out.
How do you connect to a mermaid?
Apart from the obvious, (which is go to the beach, put my feet in the water and put a little bit of salt water on my third eye, which is our spiritual centre) …I have a mermaid bath.
A mermaid bath would consist of a handful of sand that I've got off the beach, put it in the bath and put mermaid figurines and mermaid soaps and shells and candles all around. I'll have ocean waves playing in the background, dim the lights and close my eyes. I drift off and sometimes it literally feels like I've got a tail it can feel so powerful.
How do you connect to a fairy?
I’ll have a fairy bath with rose petals and organic, earthy type things around to invoke that energy… the best place is to get out into nature and connect with them
What do you say to people who are negative about your job or who don’t believe in the enchanted realm?
I'm not here to make people believe in anything, for me it’s a knowing. Belief implies there's an element of doubt. All I'm doing is sharing my story- what's real and right for me. People can say I'm delusional but there’s no reason why we must leave magic behind when we grow up. Society makes you feel like you've got to grow out of this. I get people contacting me all the time saying they can’t tell their families about their fairy beliefs.
I went on ITV This Morning and then found out the clip was on Gogglebox. They asked if I could hear any mermaids and there was such a long delay on the sound equipment I said: “I can't hear the mermaids because the oceans too loud”. They made me look like such a fool. It was hilarious the way it had been edited so differently. I made a mistake of looking at the comments online after and thought… yikes, there are some really mean-spirited people out there.
I feel you have laugh at yourself. I think everybody has the right to express themselves as they want to. If I'm making people happy and spreading love and bringing awareness to the environment (which is ultimately what it's about), then that's what my job is. Most people are really lovely and inquisitive and even share their own experiences. I think people in general like to feel like they're in control. Things like this can scare them because it's stuff they can't fathom. Why would there be fairies? Why wouldn't there be mermaids? Why wouldn't there be aliens? (But that's a completely different story).
What do your family think about your work?
My family totally accept what I do. One of my sons is a pilot and definitely doesn't believe in fairies, but he believes that I believe and he's very supportive of me. My other son is a bit more spiritually open, he kind of knows that other beings exist too. My dad on the other-hand, no- definitely can't go there with my dad. My mum is quite receptive to it though!
Photography by Danniella Jayne