Today we are very excited to share an interview with Author Jenna Yoon (Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms)!
Meet the Author: Jenna Yoon
Jenna Yoon studied Art History at Wellesley College and received her master’s degree in Korean art history from Ewha Womans University. She’s lived about half her life in both Korea and the United States. When she’s not writing, Jenna loves to travel, find yummy eats, play board games, and take skin care very seriously. Currently, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two kids. You can visit her at her website authorjennayoon.com or on Instagram and Twitter at @authorjennayoon.
About the Book: Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms
Perfect for fans of the Gifted Clans and Aru Shah series, this thrilling second book of the middle grade fantasy Lia Park series sees Lia and Joon on a mission to protect important magical objects—and themselves—from a mysterious enemy.
Twelve-year-old Lia Park and her best friend, Joon, are now full-time students at International Magic Academy after defeating corrupt diviner Gaya, and their first assignment is an ambitious one. The evil nine-headed monster and King of Darkness, Jihaedaegukjeok, wants to destroy the three Heavenly Heirlooms that create fire and light to plunge the world into darkness and destroy humanity.
The heirlooms can only be destroyed if they are all together, so over time, they have been hidden carefully with magic. Except now, one of them is missing. Lia, Joon, and their classmates have been tasked with recovering the lost heirloom and bringing it to IMA for safekeeping. They expected the task to be difficult, but the number of obstacles the magic trainees run into makes Lia start to wonder if the sabotage could be coming from someone inside the school.
YABC: When writing a series how do you keep the sequels fresh?
Sequels are tricky! To keep it fresh, I started by exploring and focusing on different themes. For example, LIA PARK AND THE MISSING JEWEL focused on the bonds between family, while the second book, LIA PARK AND THE HEAVENLY HERILOOMS explored friendships. Raising the stakes, and expanding the magical world helped to keep it different from the first book.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
While I absolutely love Lia Park because she is strong and courageous. I also love her best friend Joon so much. I moved around a lot growing up and never had a steady group of friends. My best friend was and still is my sister. In a way Joon is the friend that I always wished I had.
YABC: What elements of Korean culture were a must to include for you?
In college, I majored in art history and discovered a passion for Asian art, in particular Korean art. But unfortunately, there weren’t many books or research available in English at the time. So, I moved back to Korea and received my Masters in Korean art history from a Korean graduate school. At that time, my goal was to become a Korean art history professor in the United States so that I could teach and share what I loved. But after graduate school, I took a break from school and explored other career paths. Fast forward many years later, I was thrilled to combine my passion for writing and Korean art history into the Lia Park series. I blended Korean art, history, mythology, landmarks, and language into a contemporary fantasy so that all kids would have a fun adventure. But also hoped to create an easily accessible entry point into Korean culture, and spark their curiosity and imagination.
YABC: What is your favorite childhood book?
Even though I didn’t see myself in books growing up I was an avid reader. I loved the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books. But most of all my favorite books were the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I loved how these books took me to fantasy worlds, gave me the power to choose my own destiny, and I could pretend to be the main character. Even though they never looked like me, being able to make my own decisions helped me forget that fact for a little while.
YABC: What is your favorite snack when writing?
When I don’t have time to cook, my go to writing snack are kettle jalapeno chips. And yes, I do eat them with chopsticks so I don’t have to wipe my fingers in between munching and typing. But my absolute favorite writing snack is gungjung tteokbokki, sliced rice cakes, meat and vegetables stir fried in soy sauce. I add a little local honey and julienned carrots as well so it’s a delicious mixture of sweet and salty, and soft and crunchy.
YABC: What’s your least favorite word or expression and why?
My least favorite phrase is “I can’t.” Raising two daughters, I do my best to instill in them an I-can-do-it attitude. Whether it be solving math problems or learning new moves in ice skating, I remind my kids that there is nothing they can’t do if they persist and practice. Anything is possible with hard work.
YABC: What do you do when you procrastinate?
I wish I could say that I do very glamourous things when I procrastinate. But I would most likely be watching a K-drama, or catching up on errands. Lately, I’ve picked up playing the cello again. I like to tell myself that it’s actually a pretty productive way to procrastinate because playing music refills my creative well and so I am actually helping myself by procrastinating.
YABC: What is your favorite holiday or tradition and why?
My favorite holiday is Christmas and New Years! I’m very close with my family but we all live very far apart from each other. But on Christmas, we try to all get together whether it be in Korea, New York or Texas and celebrate. If we’re in Korea, we go to the same restaurant every single time for Christmas. When we are in the States, we enjoy staying home and cooking Christmas dinner, which usually is a mixture of Korean food and Western food. But the best part is just spending precious time altogether in the same place.
Title: Lia Park and the Heavenly Heirlooms
Author: Jenna Yoon
Release Date: May 30, 2023
Publisher: Aladdin, Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fantasy/Magic, Legends/Myths
Age Range: 8-12