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39 Female Horror Writers That Will Haunt Your Bookshelves Forevermore

These female authors will make your blood run cold.

female horror authors

Tucked away on the dark and dusty shelves of libraries around the world are pages packed with murder: tales of lands where only the most wicked of creatures dwell. Year after year, hands pass over the spines of these treasures, leaving more cobwebs on their covers than in the stories themselves.

The battle of due recognition in the literary horror/thriller/suspense genre has been a tough one for women writers. And while authors like Ann Radcliffe, and later on, Daphne du Maurier, wrote novels that stand as cornerstones of the Gothic horror genre, many female horror writers have remained under-appreciated.

Today, we look to some of the women writers who lead the genre of the sick and twisted, admiring their short stories, poetry, and prose. Here is a thorough round-up of the female horror writers doing incredibly important (and dare we say entertaining?) work in the genre. Some of these names you may know, and many others you may not—but once you do, they’ll surely haunt your bookshelves evermore.

These women range from pioneers of the genre, representing classic horror novels, to the standard-bearers of today, writing some of the most popular and bestselling horror fiction of modern times.

Gwendolyn Kiste

Bram Stoker Award-winning books

The Rust Maidens

By Gwendolyn Kiste

Gwendolyn Kiste is a Pennsylvania-based horror and speculative fiction author who writes both novels and short stories. She is the 2018 Bram Stoker Award winner for her novel The Rust Maidens, and her other popular horror novels include And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, The Invention of Ghosts, Pretty Marys All in a Row, and Reluctant Immortals. Additionally, her short stories have appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, Black Static, and more. 

The Rust Maidens is as coming-of-age story of a pair of girls in 1980s Cleveland, Ohio. Phoebe and Jaqueline have graduated high school to enter the ugly reality of their city: abandoned factories populate the skyline, and the river is so contaminated that one spark would light it on fire. And worst of all, the girls they’ve grown up with are changing…One by one they seem to disintegrate until their bones protrude out of their flesh. As the book alternates from the present to the past, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery before she loses everything she’s ever held dear—including her own body. 

Laurel Hightower



By Laurel Hightower

Laurel Hightower is a Kentucky native who works as a paralegal in a mid-sized firm on top of writing horror books, of which she has written eight. She’s a fan of beer, bourbon, horror movies, and ghost stories. Her novel Crossroads from 2020 is the story of a grief-stricken mother who will do anything—even mess with the laws of life and death—to get him back.  

After Chris’s son dies in a car accident, she doesn’t know how she could ever recover from her loss. But as the walls of grief threaten to close in on her, a small cut on her finger changes everything. The night after the drop of blood fell on her son’s roadside memorial, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. But is it really his ghost, or is evil at play? Unable to resist the temptation, Chris begins playing a dangerous game with powerful forces in an attempt to see her son alive again.

Zin E. Rocklyn

flowers for the sea

Flowers for the Sea

By Zin E. Rocklyn

In an interview with The Lineup last year, Rocklyn introduced themselves as “a queer, genderqueer, Black author who writes primarily dark fantasy and horror.” They started writing at the young age of eight or nine years old, and have been obsessed with dark horror literature ever since. They have contributed to multiple award-winning collections, and their debut novella Flowers for the Sea is the winner of the Shirley Jackson Award, the winner Pulver Award, and an Ignyte Award finalist. 

Flowers for the Sea follows Iraxi, a pregnant woman among the survivors of a flood currently living on an ark where resources are limited and dangerous beasts threaten their every move. Iraxi is a commoner who has been ostracized for refusing the prince. What’s more, the child Iraxi is carrying might be more than just human, setting Iraxi up for a future she could have never imagined…

Mary SanGiovanni

Savage Woods

Savage Woods

By Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni is the Bram Stoker Award–nominated author of over 20 books, as well as a plethora of short stories, comics, and nonfiction pieces. Additionally, SanGiovanni is the creator of her own cosmic horror podcast/blog, Cosmic Shenanigans. She also co-hosts The Ghost Writers Podcast along with Somer Cannon and Matt Wilsadin, with early episodes including the late Dave Thomas as a co-host as well. Her novels are haunting, and intense, and will have readers breathless as they face the horrific characters born in SanGiovanni’s creative mind. 

In Savage Woods, a plot of 600 haunted woods in New Jersey called Nilhollow is rife with terrifying tales of hikers who go insane before taking their own lives. When Julia Russo flees to the Nillhollow woods after her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road, her friends and family are left devastated when she disappears without a trace. State Trooper Peter Grainger knows he must find the missing young woman, but every step he takes leads him closer to evil: an ancient hatred that has risen to feed on humankind and eviscerate our species.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

gothic horror novels mexican gothic

Mexican Gothic

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia was born in Mexico, and continued to live there until she moved to Canada in 2004, where she currently resides. She is the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, the Sunburst Award, and the Locus Award, just to name a few. Additionally, Moreno-Garcia is an editor, publisher, and book columnist for The Washington Post

Her New York Times–bestselling novel Mexican Gothic was nominated as one of the best books of the year by The New Yorker, Vox, Vanity Fair, and more. Set in 1950s Mexico, this novel tells the tale of Noemí Taboada, a wealthy young socialite who is called for help by her cousin in a mysterious letter. Strong-willed and unafraid, Noemí ventures to her cousin’s house in the Mexican countryside, where she finds a house almost as terrifying as the violent history behind it…

Nalo Hopkinson

Skin Folk

Skin Folk

By Nalo Hopkinson

Jamaican-born Nalo Hopkinson is an award-winning horror and speculative fiction author. She credits some of her abilities to the unique ways in which her cognitive differences enable her to interact with the written word. In 2001, Hopkinson published a collection of short stories titled Skin Folk, which in 2002 won the World Fantasy Award for Best Story Collection, was selected for the New York Times Summer Reading List, and was one of the New York Times Best Books of the Year. 

The 15 short stories included in Skin Folk are influenced by Caribbean folklore and include elements of science fiction, folklore, fables, romance, and horror. Hopkinson’s writing is vivid and imaginative, sometimes interwoven with her native Caribbean dialect. Skin Folk is for anyone looking for a thought-provoking read that will shock, illuminate, and broaden the mind.

Hailey Piper

queen of teeth

Queen of Teeth

By Hailey Piper

Hailey Piper is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Queen of Teeth, and her other published novels include No Gods for Drowning, The Worm and His Kings, Your Mind is a Terrible Thing, and more. She has also written dozens of short stories, which have been published in magazines like Cosmic Horror Monthly and Daily Science Fiction

Queen of Teeth tells the story of a corrupt pharmaceutical company and its victims. After Yaya Betancourt discovers that she is afflicted by vagina dentata—a rare genetic condition caused by AlphaBeta Pharmaceuticals which occurred to her and thousands of others decades ago while still in their mothers’ wombs—she suddenly finds herself the victim of a manhunt. ABP wants to track Yaya down, eager to use her as a test tube for one of their newest experiments.

While Yaya is on the run, she begins to transform: she sprouts horns and tentacles and begins to find that her condition has a mind of its own. Will Yaya be ABP’s greatest success, or will she be the deadliest failure they ever created?

Cina Pelayo

Book cover of horror novel Children of Chicago by Cina Pelayo

Children of Chicago

By Cina Pelayo

Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo received her Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Columbia College, a Master of Fine Art in Writing from The School of Art Institute in Chicago, and is a Doctoral Candidate in Business Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. She is the winner of the International Latino Book Award and a five-time nominee for the Bram Stoker award. 

Cina was born and raised in Chicago, which is where she gained inspiration for her award-winning novel Children of Chicago. This modern-day retelling of the Pied Piper fairy tale is as terrifying as it is gripping. You know how the fable goes: call upon the Piper for help, but be prepared when he returns to collect payment…. When Chicago detective Lauren Medina is called to investigate the murder of a teenage girl, she is horrified to discover that the Pied Piper has returned to the city. Can she stop him before more children are forced to pay with their lives?

V. Castro

Goddess of Filth by horror author V. Castro

Goddess of Filth

By V. Castro

V. Castro was born in Texas to Mexican-American parents. Since her youth, she has been fascinated by Mexican folklore and Texan urban legends. This inspired her to start writing her own works of horror literature at a young age, and she has been doing it ever since. Castro is now the two-time Bram Stoker Award–nominated author of several novels, and runs a site dedicated to Latinx products and merchandise based on her books.

In V. Castro’s novel Goddess of Filth, a group of young girl friends host a séance. What starts as a night of tipsy fun and ends in fear when one of their friends becomes possessed and begins chanting in Nahuatl, the ancient language of their Aztec ancestors. As the girl begins to act more and more strange as weeks go by, her terrified friends enlist the help of bruja, a priest, and a professor as they try to free their friend from the grips of the ancient magic that has taken hold of her.

Sonoya Taylor

little paranoias

Little Paranoias: Stories

By Sonoya Taylor

Sonora Taylor is the 2020 winner of the Ladies Fiction Horror Award for Best Collection and Best Novel. Taylor has also published many short stories and manages an online book festival alongside co-manager V. Castro called Fright Girl Summer, which aims to promote marginalized voices and authors. 

Little Paranoias: Stories is a collection of 20 short stories written by Taylor which highlight the little things that manifest into our biggest fears. This collection showcases Taylor’s ability to get into the minds of her readers and create something truly terrifying.

Jessica Guess

Cirque Berserk, an 80s horror novella by horror author Jessica Guess

Cirque Berserk

By Jessica Guess

Jessica Guess is the founder of the website Black Girl’s Guide to Horror, where she explains horror movies in terms of quality and intersectionality. She is also a writer and an English professor, whose short fiction has been featured in Luna Station Quarterly and Tor Nightfire.

Guess’s debut novella, Cirque Berzerk, tells the story of Sam and Rochelle, a pair of friends who go looking for trouble within the grounds of an abandoned circus. According to the legends, in 1989 a mysterious group of teenagers committed a series of brutal murders at Cirque Berzerk before vanishing into thin air, and they’re rumored to lurk around the property looking for blood to shed to this very day. What Sam and Rochelle find at the abandoned Cirque Berzerk is a night of horror, violence, and betrayal, and there’s no guarantee they will make it out alive…

Sara Gran

Come Closer

Come Closer

By Sara Gran

Sara Gran is a screenwriter and the author of seven novels. Additionally, Gran is the founder of a small press called Dreamland Books. Sara Gran’s novel Come Closer, which was published in 2003, was hailed by Time Out New York as the “year’s scariest novel,” and was deemed a “hypnotic” and “genuinely scary novel about possession and insanity” by Bret Easton Ellis, the author of American Psycho

In Come Closer,  a successful young woman in a happy marriage starts to notice her life going askew. She’s acting violently without even realizing it, and at night, she dreams about a woman with pointed teeth on the shore of a blood-red sea. As things escalate, a frightening voice in her head begins telling her what to do. Can get back in control of her life before the possession fully takes over?

Gemma Amor

Dear Laura by Gemma Amor

Dear Laura

By Gemma Amor

A true renaissance woman, Gemma Amor is an author, a podcaster, a voice actor, and an illustrator. Dear Laura, Amor’s debut novel, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award in 2019 for Superior Achievement in a First Novel. Amor credits her writing influences to classical literature, Gothic romance, tragedy, and heroism. 

The protagonist in Dear Laura is a young woman who has been the victim of violence at the hands of a mysterious letter writer who claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend, Bobby. In return for information about her friend, Laura must complete strange, humiliating acts of harm which over the years have deeply affected her psyche. No matter how hard she tries, Laura can’t get rid of her dark pen pal and finds herself taking his demands further and further as she attempts to solve the mystery of what happened to Bobby.

Jessica Leonard

Antioch by Jessica Leonard


By Jessica Leonard

Jessica Leonard’s goal as a horror author is to make readers feel that spooky “feeling you get when you think someone is watching you.” She is a relatively new writer to the scene—her first novel was published in 2020 and her second is slated for a May 2023 release—but Leonard already has the horror world talking about her impeccable writing style and knack for the genre. 

Leonard’s debut novel, Antioch, tells the story of a small town that is wracked by violence. Antioch used to be safe and quiet, but now six women have been brutally murdered and the killer remains on the loose. Bess, a local bookseller, picks up a late-night transmission on her short-wave radio which convinces her that a seventh victim has been abducted. Armed with her extensive knowledge about Amelia Earhart conspiracy theories, Bess decides this might be a mystery she can actually solve…if she doesn’t get herself killed in the process.

Her second novel, Conjuring the Witch, is due out in May 2023 from Ghoulish Books.

Gemma Files

Experimental Film

Experimental Film

By Gemma Files

This Canadian horror author first gained recognition through short fiction. In 1999, her short story “The Emperor's Old Bones” won the International Horror Guild Award for Best Short Story. If you’ve seen the television horror anthology series The Hunger, you may know that five of Files’s short works were adapted for it. She has also gained significant notoriety for her film criticism, especially in relation to horror cinema.

Her 2015 novel, Experimental Film, was the recipient of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel, as well as the winner of the Sunburst Award for Best Canadian Speculative Fiction Novel. This book centers on former film teacher Lois Cairns. Lois isn’t having an easy time making ends meet, raising an autistic son while freelancing as a film critic. But when she discovers the early work of spiritualist Iris Dunlopp Whitcomb at a screening, the silent footage might change everything. She sets out to prove this woman—who disappeared mysteriously back in 1918—was the first female filmmaker in Canada. But parallels begin to emerge between her and the vanished Mrs. Whitcomb—parallels that lead to the emergence of a demon demanding a price be paid.

Richie Tankersley Cusick

April Fools

April Fools

By Richie Tankersley Cusick

Since her first novel, Evil on the Bayou, was published in 1984, Richie Tankersley Cusick has written upwards of 25 books—including contributions to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer book series. She has written several novels for the Point Horror book series, a collection in the 90s that was most popular with teenage girls.

April Fools, a Point Horror book from 1990, follows a teen named Belinda. After an April Fools’ party, Belinda and her friends are the cause of a terrible accident. Terrified their mistake will result in a murder conviction, they agree to keep the incident under wraps and flee the scene. But Belinda’s conscience isn’t so quiet, and when a mysterious stranger uses a series of cruel pranks to torture her, it’s clear that someone else is in on the girls’ dirty little secret.

Samantha Schweblin

little eyes

Little Eyes

By Samanta Schweblin

An Argentine Spanish-language author, Schewblin's work has been translated into over 20 languages. Her first novel, Fever Dream, was nominated for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize. In the 2018 translation of Little Eyes, homes across the world have been invaded. Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Indiana—no place is left untouched. They're everywhere. But who are "they?" Us.

They're nothing like  pets, specters, or robots. They're people as real as you or me. Yet one living in Berlin can freely walk through the home of someone living in Sidney. They could be sharing a meal with your children across the world and you wouldn't even know it. And if you did know if, they are entirely impossible to find.

Two souls connecting can be a beautiful thing. But in a world of too much connection, things get ugly. Fast.

Eden Royce

spook lights

Spook Lights

By Eden Royce

As a writer from Charleston, South Carolina, Eden Royce has a natural flair for Southern Gothic horror. You’re most likely to see her short fiction in anthologies and print or online magazines, but her debut middle-grade novel, Root Magic was just published in January of 2021. She’s received recognition for her talents through a nomination for a Shirley Jackson Award and the bestowment of the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds grant.

Spook Lights is Royce’s first collection of short stories, bringing 12 tales together to push atmospheric terror to a whole new level. Rich in history, nuance, and metaphor, these stories are of the South through and through. From witch doctors to sinister shop keeps to the embrace of monsters, these stories across foggy cemeteries and sulfuric marshes are deeply macabre.

Lauren Beukes


Broken Monsters

By Lauren Beukes

If you haven’t heard of Lauren Beukes, where have you been? The work of this South African writer has been praised by some of the biggest names in fiction—from Stephen King to George R.R. Martin. Though her work has been published in two dozen countries, she’s also made notable contributions to television, film, comics, and journalism. And if you’re someone who wants to dive recklessly into high-concept novels that don’t pull any punches, then her work is for you.

In her 2014 novel, Broken Monsters, a serial killer is terrorizing the streets of Detroit. Detective Gabriella Versado is no stranger to death, but she’s never seen bodies quite like this. It starts with a boy. Or half one. The other half belongs to a deer, fused to the victim in some unidentifiable way. Meanwhile, Versado’s daughter strikes up a dangerous online flirtation, a journalist risks everything to get the exclusive scoop on the killer, and a homeless man desperately tries to keep his family safe. And reality seems to crumble as more and more horrifying bodies turn up.

Ann Arensberg



By Ann Arensberg

Ann Arensberg was born in Pittsburgh in 1937, and started out her career as an editor for Viking Press. Her range as an author is broad, spanning from the romantic comedy of her novel Group Sex to the disturbing supernatural horror of Incubus. Across all her work, the National Book Award-winning author writes on the theme of sexual desire, particularly as it pertains to the female experience of eroticism. It’s certainly a fresh and unique take amidst the near slog of gratuitously sexual situations in the male-dominated corner of the horror genre.

In Incubus, a dark presence has settled over the town of Dry Falls, Maine. Unholy atrocities have begun to take place: the flourishing crops drying up into husks, animals birthing mutated abominations, and all of the men suddenly losing all interest in sex, while the women keep having eerie sexual encounters in the night. But are these erotic dalliances strange dreams, or something far more sinister? The faith-shaken pastor’s wife, Cora Whitman, is right at the center of the unsettling tale.

Mo Hayder



By Mo Hayder

Mo Hayder is a British writer of dark and twisted thrillers, best known for her Jack Caffery series, which follows a Detective Inspector in the Bristol Major Crime Investigation Unit. The fifth installment in the series, Gone, won her the 2012 Edgar Award. That book follows Caffrey’s investigation into a routine carjacking case as it turns out the car wasn’t the target, but rather the eleven-year-old girl in the backseat—and she’s not the only child who’s gone missing.

Hayder left school at 15 and made a living in odd jobs as a barmaid, a security guard, an English teacher in Asia, and a hostess at a Tokyo club. Along the way she became a flim-maker, and got her MA in film from The American University in Washington DC, as well as an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa University UK. Her path in life has clearly treated her well, as the Times refers to her sophomore novel The Treatment as one of “the top ten most scary thrillers ever written.”

If you’re looking for an author to get your heart pounding and your stomach churning, Mo Hayder is the place to start.

Kathe Koja

the cipher kathe koja female horror writers

The Cipher

By Kathe Koja

Kathe Koja has a love of writing stories about people given the opportunity to become more than what they are. This theme of transcendence is especially prevalent in her earlier works, from her first novel The Cipher through her 1996 novel Kink. She’s a prolific writer of short stories, and has a notable collection of Young Adult fiction under her belt, but it’s her adult horror/speculative fiction novels that really get under your skin.

The Cipher won both the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Horror Novel and the Locus Award for Best First Novel. The gritty story centers around young aspiring poet Nicholas and his lover, Nakota. Upon discovering a strange, dark hole—something somehow both intangibly ethereal and viscerally sentient—in the storage room floor, the two of them begin to lose control of their lives, spiraling down a path of obsession, violence, and transformation.

Ania Ahlborn

brother ania ahlborn female horror writers


By Ania Ahlborn

Polish-born author Ania Ahlborn clawed her own way into the horror scene with her first novel Seed, which she self-published in 2012. Seed quickly became the number one bestselling horror novel on Amazon, leading the company to option the movie rights for the work. Since then, Ahlborn has published 9 more chilling novels and novellas, including the horrifying Appalachian tale Brother.

Brother follows the gruesomely dysfunctional Morrow family and their cruel and violent “traditions.” They’ve fallen on hard times, but they find ways to keep their spirits up—and it helps that no cops turn to them when girls start disappearing off the side of the road, and they’re too deep in the mountains for anyone to hear any screams. It’s all running smoothly and routinely, until 19-year-old Michael becomes smitten with a pretty girl in the next town over, and starts to question how well he fits in with the ways of his family. Luckily his older brother Rebel is there to keep him in line…

Though one of Ahlborn’s earliest memories is of her sneaking through a chainlink fence to swan around the old cemetery by her house, she claims the dark fiction she splashes across the page doesn’t extend to her own personal life. In fact, she cites her overly cautious brain as inspiration, with horrors spawning from her subconscious conjuring of worst-case scenarios.

Alma Katsu

the hunger alma katsu female horror writers

Alma Katsu

By The Hunger

Alma Katsu certainly has an intriguing background. Born in Alaska but raised in Massachusetts, Katsu has worked for three decades for the US federal government, flourishing in several positions dealing with intelligence, foreign policy, and technology. In her writing, Katsu melds the historical with the supernatural, delivering vivid stories which feel so deeply rooted in possibility that the terrors sink deep in the reader’s psyche.

Her most well-known works include those in the Taker Trilogy, following a woman whose gift of immortality starts to feel like a Faustian punishment after the sins of her past start to catch up with her. The Hunger, published in 2018, is described by the Master of Horror Stephen King as being, “deeply, deeply disturbing.” The novel follows the historically notorious Donner Party, threatening the travelers on the ill-fated journey with an evil that may go beyond the madness of human desperation.

Her novel, The Deep, was released in March 2020, and centers around a haunting story amidst the historical disasters of the Titanic and its sister ship the Britannic. Additionally, she is a 2022 Bram Stoker nominee for her novel The Fervor, released in April 2022.

Mariko Koike

the graveyard apartment mariko koike books for fans of the turning

Mariko Koike

By The Graveyard Apartment

Japanese novelist Mariko Koike is lauded for her thrilling detective fiction and blood-curdling horror works. She started out writing essay collections and short stories before she turned to novels, winning the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Short Stories in 1989 for “My Wife’s Girlfriends.” Though she thrives on writing elements of terror and suspense, she also has a passion for love stories, making many of her works genre-bending masterpieces.

Her most popular English-translated work is The Graveyard Apartment. A young married couple and their daughter are filled with idealistic hope for the future as they move into a new apartment building. That optimistic dream soon darkens as a claustrophobic and isolated story of terror unfolds, and one by one their neighbors flee as strange occurrences haunt the building. Something is lurking in the basement—something as dark as the family’s past.

Jac Jemc

the grip of it jac jemc female horror writers

Jac Jemc

By The Grip of It

Jac Jemc is a captivating new voice in the horror genre. With every piece she writes, she treads new personal ground, never revisiting old concepts and keeping her stories fresh with a broad scope of the terrifying and disturbing. Her short story collection False Bingo consists of twenty stories spanning alternate universes, fears come to life, and vicious revenge.

Her 2017 novel the Grip of It delivers a cerebral and and suspenseful haunted house story. A couple—Julie and James—in the midst of relationship woes move into a new home which escalates their troubles beyond imagination. While readers are grounded in reality by the very real emotional navigation of the main characters, a slow creeping and steady dread is woven around the relatability. The house the couple has inhabited has its own dark agenda—terrorizing Julie and James with eerily mysterious and grating noises, a claustrophobic and changing architecture, and stains on the walls which seem to map over Julie’s skin in bruising patterns.

Daphne du Maurier

female horror writers


By Daphne du Maurier

Born in London in 1907, Daphne du Maurier was the daughter of the prominent actor-manager Sir Gerald du Maurier and actress Muriel Beaumont. She grew up among creative types, and her blooming passion for literature and writing was nurtured by family and friends. As her career grew, she was categorized as a “romantic novelist,” though today she fits best among the Gothic writers.

du Maurier found success on the big screen as well: many of her novels were adapted for film including Jamaica Inn (1939), Frenchman’s Creek (1944), Hungry Hill (1947), My Cousin Rachel (1952), and of course, Rebecca (1940). Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) was based on a treatment of one of du Maurier’s short stories, as was as the film Don’t Look Now (1973). The Doll is one of 13 of du Maurier’s “lost” stories, described as, “gothic, suspenseful, and macabre.” She wrote it when she was only 21.

Silvina Ocampo

female horror writers

Thus Were Their Faces: Selected Stories

By Silvina Ocampo

Born in Buenos Aires in 1903, Silvina Ocampo’s writing career began with Viaje Olvidado (1937) and continued to flourish with three books of poetry, novels, and a shot at playwriting as well. Ocampo fell into the shadow of her good friend Jorge Luis Borges, the acclaimed Argentinian writer, and her eldest sister who was the founding editor of the journal, Sur.

When Ocampo’s work started gaining traction in the literary world, it often fell into the category of the fantastic and surreal, focusing on ideas such as space and time, children, and metamorphosis. Her style often veered into the unusually cruel, which at the time, was not well-received by critics. In fact, in 1979, Ocampo was denied the Argentinian prize for literature on the basis that her work was “far too cruel.”

Sylvia Townsend Warner

female horror writers

Lolly Willowes

By Sylvia Townsend Warner

Unmarried and unassuming, Laura Willowes seeks an outlet beyond the uptight London streets. After fleeing her brother’s home in an act of rebellion and clarity, Willowes finds her place in a village of witches. Such is the premise of the 1926 novel Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner. The well-received book traipses through haunting scenes with Satanic undertones, and it bends and challenges societal norms. Unfortunately, however, many missed the truly contemporary and modern thought lying hidden between the lines.

In one thank you note to friend and fellow author David Garnett, Townsend Warner wrote, “Other people who have seen Lolly have told me that it was charming, that it was distinguished, and my mother said it was almost as good as Galsworthy. And my heart sank lower and lower; I felt as though I had tried to make a sword, only to be told what a pretty pattern there was on the blade.” Townsend Warner went on to write a number of short stories and other novels during her literary career including, Summer Will Show (1936) and The Cat’s Cradle Book (1940).

Ann Radcliffe

The Mysteries of Udolpho

The Mysteries of Udolpho

By Ann Radcliffe

Though she is considered one of the founders of Gothic literature, very little is known about Ann Radcliffe’s personal life. Author Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography about Radcliffe, only to abandon the project due to lack of information. Her literary life, however, consists of six novels, a book of poetry, and some non-fiction. She set the tone of her writing style with The Romance of the Forest (1791) and inspired Gothic writers with The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allan Poe, and Jane Austen have all pulled from the “Radcliffe School” in their work, and she’s even been credited with influencing the writing of Fyodor Dostoevsky.

“I used to spend the long winter hours before bed listening (for I could not yet read), agape with ecstasy and terror, as my parents read aloud to me from the novels of Ann Radcliffe. Then I would rave deliriously about them in my sleep,” Dostoevsky wrote. Radcliffe was a proponent of terror over horror, stating that terror aims to stimulate readers through imagination and perceived evils, while horror closes them off through fear and physical dangers.

Shirley Jackson

female horror writers

The Lottery and Other Stories

By Shirley Jackson

Best known for her short story The Lottery (1948), Shirley Jackson has been credited with influencing such writers as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Nigel Kneale, and Richard Matheson. Throughout Jackson’s career, she faced reactions from fans that her male counterparts may never have encountered. Many insisted that the darker aspects of her work were a product of “personal, even neurotic, fantasies.”

Jackson preferred to allow her books to speak for themselves, veering away from the spotlight as often as she could. She was quoted as saying how pleased she was that the Union of South Africa banned The Lottery because: “she felt that they, at least, understood the story.” Her succession of Gothic novels began in 1951 with the publication of Hangsaman, and, in 1959, when The Haunting of Hill House was published, it became regarded as the “quintessential haunted house tale.”

Marjorie Bowen

female horror writers

Black Magic: The Rise and Fall of the Antichrist and Other Works

By Marjorie Bowen

British supernatural horror writer Marjorie Bowen was born in 1885. She produced more than 150 volumes of work, though they may be difficult to come by, as much of what was published appeared under pseudonyms. Joseph Shearing, George Preedy, Robert Paye, John Winch, and Margaret Campbell were the bylines of Bowen’s original works. She wrote mystery novels inspired by true crimes.

The books that saw the most commercial success fell under the pseudonym Joseph Shearing. It wasn’t until the late 1940s that the general public came to know the true author of these haunting tales. She has been described as “one of the great supernatural writers of this century” and “one of the best of our modern novelists.”

Tananarive Due

female horror writers

My Soul to Keep

By Tananarive Due

Tananarive Due has been terrifying her readers for over 20 years, from her African Immortals series to standalone horror novels like The Good House. Although some of Due’s novels land more in the speculative/fantasy genre than horror, each entry offers something particularly horrifying.

In My Soul to Keep, the first book in the African Immortals series, Jessica discovers a major secret after her marriage to David. Namely, that he’s part of an Ethiopian sect that traded their humanity for immortality—and now the group that gave them immortality is calling him back to Ethiopia. Jessica, David, and their child battle for their lives amongst terrifying creatures and strange characters.

Elizabeth Hand

Wylding Hall

Wylding Hall

By Elizabeth Hand

Waking the Moon has become a cult classic over the years thanks to its specific and engrossing take on Gothic fantasy. Elizabeth Hand's fantasy-tinged horror has thrilled readers over the years.

Wylding Hall is the most straightforward horror offering from Hand, and it’s sure to satisfy. When the lead singer of a band goes missing during a recording session in a crumbling castle, the other bandmates are left confused and terrified. Years later, they come together once more to try to find Julian.

Carmen Maria Machado

female horror writers

Her Body and Other Parties

By Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado’s only written short stories so far, but what we’ve seen has left us deeply impressed.

2017’s Her Body and Other Parties gained a lot of internet buzz. But these stories aren’t just the next trendy collection. From body horror to dystopian plagues, Her Body and Other Parties has it all. The strange, sexy, and spooky stories will leave you haunted. We’ll be waiting, not so patiently, for Machado’s next work.

Mary Shelley



By Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley was just a teenager when she wrote Frankenstein, one of the most enduring horror stories of all time. By 1816, the young woman had already experienced her share of tragedy. Shelley’s mother died in childbirth and Shelley herself had lost a prematurely born daughter. Her experience with birth and death is said to have influenced the twisted story of unnatural life in Frankenstein. However, Shelley herself said that the inspiration for the scientist who stitched together human body parts and brought his creation to life came to her in a vivid nightmare one rainy summer in Geneva, Switzerland.

Though Mary Shelley’s name is instantly recognizable today for her major contribution to Gothic literature, for the majority of her writing career she was overshadowed by her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary Shelley’s career was also plagued by the suggestion that Percy was the real author of Frankenstein, and that she had simply taken credit for his work. However, in recent years Mary Shelley’s literary output has been studied more closely, finally putting to rest any doubts about her talent as a writer.

Sarah Rayne

Property of a Lady

Property of a Lady

By Sarah Rayne

Sarah Rayne is known for her inventive paranormal stories and plots that twist and turn until the very last page. The author of over 25 books, Rayne considers herself a history buff and lover of old houses, which certainly shines through in her Michael Flint series. Property of a Lady is the first of six books featuring the Oxford professor.

This particularly chilling ghost story takes place in Shropshire, England, where Michael has agreed to look after Charect House, a centuries-old manor that his American friends have inherited. As Michael unravels the house’s disturbing past through the discovery of long-hidden documents and diary entries, inexplicable events plague him and the people he’s closest to, from sightings of a strange woman in the house to two young girls an ocean apart experiencing the same recurring dream. Publishers Weekly lauded Rayne for her ability to “turn the picked-over bones of the haunted house story into something fresh and frequently terrifying.”

Diane Hoh



By Diane Hoh

We credit this bestselling author of young adult horror with fueling our nightmares. Diane Hoh’s Nightmare Hall series consists of twenty-nine terrifying books revolving around the spooky experiences of college students.

Captives is the scariest of the bunch. Four students seek shelter from a violent storm in an off-campus dorm. After barricading themselves in, they discover there’s a psychopath lying in wait, hunting them down one by one. Hoh also contributed to the Point Horror series and the anthology collection 13 Tales of Horror by 13 Masters of Horror.

Joyce Carol Oates

Dis Mem Ber

Dis Mem Ber

By Joyce Carol Oates

Joyce Carol Oates began her literary career when she was fresh out of college and hasn’t looked back since. Now a professor of creative writing at Princeton University, Oates has dabbled in many genres over her long writing career, but she’s particularly excelled in psychological terror. Oates was recognized for her superior achievement by the Horror Writers Association when she took home the Bram Stoker Award in 1996, 2012, and 2013. She is a famously prolific writer, having published more than 50 novels and 30 collections of short stories.

If you’re considering diving into Oates’ work for the first time but find the vast options intimidating, allow us to help out: Begin with this collection of short stories exploring the fear experienced by vulnerable women and girls. Oates’ powerful and incisive social commentary about our deepest fears makes Dis Mem Ber a chilling and thought-provoking read.