Karen Orlau (real name Katariina Roosipuu, nee Täht, born 1975) is an Estonian writer who has mostly published horror and fantasy stories.
Orlau is from Lahemaa, but lives in Tallinn. She has studied business management and management and marketing in the Tallinn University of Technology (graduating in 2002 and 2014, respectively). She has also given lectures on digital marketing in the same university. Orlau has worked as a project manager and strategist in several advertising and digital agencies, and as a marketing manager in an IT company.
Orlau, using the pseudonym Kate Star, debuted with the short story Saatuslik viga ('Fatal Mistake', 1997) in the magazine Mardus. She has published a poetry collection, a short novel and nearly thirty short stories, which belong to the ethno-horror and fantasy subgenres. She has published her stories in the magazines Algernon and Looming, in the anthology Mardus and in collections Eesti ulme antoloogia ('Anthology of Estonian Speculative Fiction', 2002), Retk hämarusse ('Journey into the Dusk', 2003), Fantastika (2004), Õudne Eesti. Valimik eesti õudusjutte ('Scary Estonia. A Selection of Estonian Horror Stories', 2005) and Pikad varjud ('Long Shadows', 2015). As separate works, the story collection Sealtmaalt ('From Over Yonder', 2002) and the poetry collection Eelmäng kahele ('Foreplay for Two', 2004) with Ylle Rajasaar, which includes both authors’ poems from 1996 to 2004. The Stalker Prize of the Estonian Science Fiction Association has been awarded to her short stories Oraakli surm ('Death of the Oracle', 1998) and Rannahiidsed ('Coastal Folk', 2000). The former has also been published in the Finnish language Estonian stories collection Tallinsta pois: groteskia virolaista proosaa (2003).
Her horror stories with their original figurative language have diverse themes and mythological subject-matter, the stories are often from a woman’s perspective and the violence is described in detail. Orlau has also written neo-gothic horror, e.g. the short stories Oraakli surm, Elisale ('For Elisa', 1998), Vend Juudas ('Brother Judas', 1999) and Kohtumine Emaga ('Meeting with Mother', 1999). The hard fantasy short novel Kelmid ja kangelased ('Crooks and Heroes', 2003) can be considered the first work of Estonian language roleplay literature. Her varied verse poetry is dominated by a self-centered point of view on the theme of love, but there are also motifs from fantasy.
Her most well-known ethno-horror short story is 'Coastal Folk' (2000), which draws on ancient beliefs and customs, portraying complicated relationships in an Estonian village society. The reclusive witch Liida is at the center of the psychologically charged story, whose withdrawal from village community causes rumors and fear in the community. The horror atmosphere is amplified by the motif of mob law and curses connected to past events, in addition to the lore of stillborn children, which is told with emotional fervor and manipulative allusions.
The witch stories Erak ja nõid ('The Hermit and the Witch', 2001) and Hunt, Madu ja Põrgu perenaine ('The Wolf, the Snake and the Mistress of Hell', 2002) portray the fight over inherited power and might, which brings with it ancient terrors and brutal violence. In the story Õpilane ('The Student', 2003), a young man with supernatural powers must maneuver between light and dark magic in order to gain the respected position of village witch. The horror story Viimane sõna ('Last Word', 2019) begins with strange occurrences and tells the story of a woman who can change the fates of people with the power of words.
A. O. (Translated by A. S.)
Works in Estonian
Sealtmaalt. Tallinn: Salasõna, 2002, 138 lk.
Karen Orlau, Ylle Rajasaar, Eelmäng kahele. Kanepi: Kämmu Disain, 2004, 81 lk.
Kelmid ja kangelased. - Retk hämarusse. Ulmeantoloogia. Koostanud ja toimetanud Mario Kivistik. Tallinn: Salasõna, 2003, 173 lk.
Stories published in journals and anthologies
Saatuslik viga, 1997.
Vamp ja vaskraha, 1998.
Habras ime, 1998.
Oraakli surm, 1998. [Ilmus ka antoloogias „Eesti ulme antoloogia“, 2002.]
Vend Juudas, 1999.
Etendus punases teatris, 1999.
Hirmu suured silmad, 1999.
Kohtumine Emaga, 1999.
Maha hirmus jõul!, 1999.
Malin Malini metsast, 1999.
Rannahiidsed, 2000 [Ilmus ka antoloogias „Õudne Eesti. Valimik eesti õudusjutte“, 2005].
Erak ja nõid, 2001.
Hunt, madu ja Põrgu perenaine. [Ilmus ka antoloogias „Fantastika“, 2004.]
Hall koer, 2002.
Kevadöö unenägu, 2002.
Tont taevaväraval, 2003.
Mustade tiibadega lind, 2006.
Alati on kusagil jõulud, 2009.
Tee püsti ees, 2009.
Elagu kuninganna, 2009.
Lugu sellest, kuidas Veski-Jaan kavalusega näkist jagu sai. [Antoloogias „Pikad varjud“, 2015.]
Viimane sõna, 2019.