The five books (so far) in Henry Ripplinger’s The Angelic Letters Series have been national bestsellers, selling almost 200,000 copies to date. Books six and seven are to be released in 2017. Photos courtesy of Henry Ripplinger

Henry Ripplinger's 'Angels' bring best-selling ‘miracle’

By  Mickey Conlon, Catholic Register Special
  • November 19, 2016

REGINA – Somewhere along the path to writing a self-help book, Henry Ripplinger found himself meandering down a different trail only to emerge as a best-selling  Catholic novelist.

The Regina-born and raised Ripplinger has beaten all the odds in the publishing industry, penning The Angelic Letters Series of books, a Christian romance series that tells the spiritual odyssey of Henry Pederson and Jenny Sarsky from their initial meeting — where they fell in love instantly — and the guardian angels who watch over and guide them through the next five decades, including Fr. Engelmann, the endearing and wise mentor to young Henry.

A work of fiction in Canada is considered a success if it sells 5,000 copies, yet the five Angelic Letters books published to date (in a seven-book series) have defied all publishing logic. The deliberately Catholic novels have sold almost 200,000 books since the first volume, Pewter Angels, was released in 2010.

“In my mind, it’s a miracle what has happened,” said Ripplinger from Phoenix, Arizona, where he spends the winter.

Ripplinger’s career path has been eclectic. He began as a schoolteacher and became a guidance counsellor, where the seeds were planted to write a self-help book. But first, Ripplinger’s passion for painting drew him into the world of art. He left his education career to pursue an artistic dream and became one of Canada’s foremost Prairie artists, eventually opening the Ripplinger Fine Art Gallery in downtown Regina, today a landmark in the city and Saskatchewan. On the side, hoping to provide for himself and his family in his retirement years, he dabbled in real estate. It’s here where the journey veered onto the path that led him to become an award-winning novelist.

The new millennium was in its infancy when Ripplinger was offered the opportunity to view a house that had come on the market on Hill Avenue in south Regina. It was a snowy, blustery Saskatchewan day, and Ripplinger joined his son in viewing the home that became available when the owner fell too ill to keep the house and her family moved her into a long-term care home.

Immediately upon entering the house — “and it gives me goosebumps even to share it now” — Ripplinger was “overwhelmed” by the surroundings: the antique furniture, all the books, including a copy of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, a book he was reading, that was open on a table, even the cookbook in the kitchen opened to a favourite recipe of his.

“It was as if the woman walked out the back door and I came in the front and was offered the home just the way it is, literally taking over that individual’s life,” he said. “It was such a remarkable experience because everything in that house appealed to me, it was like finding a kindred spirit or a soulmate.”

Ripplinger bought the house and the remarkable contents inside, eventually taking the furnishings and books to his farm in Lumsden, a community north of Regina nestled in the Qu’Appelle Valley.

With time, the profound experience he had in buying this house faded, but not quite fully.

“Just when I thought it was over, I would wake up at night, couldn’t sleep, (take a book from) our bookshelves and it would always be one I had taken from her home,” he said.

He spent a lot of time thinking about this woman until five years later, something hit him.

“I woke up and it came to me, this wasn’t just an ordinary experience of buying a house and taking over a person’s possessions and books and everything else. This was a love story.”

Indeed, a long lost love story. It took him back to when he was 15, “when I met this individual and circumstance and design would come along which would separate us.” It was decades later, but by chance of a real estate deal Ripplinger had rediscovered the woman who was his first love.

“When that revelation hit me, it was just like a thunderbolt and I picked up a pen and started writing about this experience,” he said.

And he hasn’t stopped writing since. What he assumed would be a one-off book has spawned four more, each making the Globe and Mail’s bestseller’s list. Books six and seven are to be released by Ripplinger’s Pio-Seelos Books — he named his publishing company after Padre Pio and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, both of whom have had a strong influence on his life — in spring and fall 2017 respectively. That’s where the series will end, Ripplinger said, though he admits a new character emerges in the final book that could spawn another series.

Pewter Angels was released on Mother’s Day in 2010 with an initial print run of 8,000. It was a risk going so big and his editor was not shy in telling him so, encouraging him to start with a 500-copy first run. But Ripplinger, 71 at the time, had faith in his work, and by October his faith had paid off. The first run sold out.

“I believed in the story,” said Ripplinger.

And so, apparently, did his readers. Ripplinger has a steady stream of emails to prove it. He is bombarded with feedback from readers who identify with his believable, life-like characters, seeing “all the life lessons and the challenges the characters were going through.” The feedback helped shape the direction of the series.

“And because I’m Catholic and the family in the story is Catholic, I brought out Catholic teaching.”

Fr. Hezuk Shroff sees this in his reading of the Angelic Letters. The pastor at Ottawa’s Good Shepherd parish provides an endorsement.

“It embodies very profound truths about God, human nature and our relationship with the Lord and with one another;” Shroff writes in one of the reader comments that accompany each book. “Some of the more profound themes that emerge from these books are the themes of faith, trust in Divine Providence, forgiveness, mercy and the victory of love over hatred, just to name a few.”

Many readers tell how Ripplinger’s words have strengthened their faith, others how it has brought them peace and forgiveness, he said. Take Jolee, who wrote to Ripplinger to say “your books have transformed my faith and outlook on my future.” Or Victoria, who claims, “It is through your words that I’m able to realize what life is really about.” And Lorraine: “With the gift of this story you have enriched many lives. I know that it has made me examine my heart. I don’t want to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness, but most importantly, we must make the choice to love unconditionally and leave the rest to God.”

“When you have life lessons coming through the lives of a character in a story, it is far more powerfully absorbed intellectually, emotionally and spiritually than just from a text book. It’s had a powerful effect on people,” he said.

When first putting pen to paper, impacting people spiritually wasn’t Ripplinger’s goal. He merely meant to pass on some of his life experiences. While fictional, he admits “about 80 per cent of my life intertwines” with Henry Pederson.

“It just came out that way and now that I realize what is happening, I’ve just been continuing that spiritual journey,” said Ripplinger.

Real life has sprung into the series as well. Ripplinger tells the story of four sisters — one with terminal cancer — from Winnipeg, fans of the Angelic Letters, who came into his life. One of the sisters was intrigued by the prayer house introduced in book four, The Angelic Occurrence. It just happens that this house is based on the prayer house he has on his farm. She wrote to Ripplinger and expressed an interest in joining her sisters in saying the rosary in this house. Ripplinger accommodated them, and arranged with Fr. Gaspar Lucas of St. Peter’s parish in Lumsden to celebrate Mass in the prayer house for the sisters.

“We had quite a beautiful day with these people,” said Ripplinger.

The House Where Angels Dwell is the next instalment in the series, and the prayer house, with three angels hovering above it, has been incorporated into the book’s cover.

(Conlon is a writer in Regina.)

Comments (2)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I'm getting tired of waiting for the next book. I will have to re-read the last book to remember what it was about.
When can we expect the next book to be on the market. My friends are getting tired of waiting also and some have said they...

I'm getting tired of waiting for the next book. I will have to re-read the last book to remember what it was about.
When can we expect the next book to be on the market. My friends are getting tired of waiting also and some have said they wasted their time reading the first books.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I stumbled upon the first book of Angelic Letter Series only a couple weeks ago. I am half way through book three already. It's not just a love story but more.......it touched the core of my spirit and my walk with Jesus. I can't get enough of...

I stumbled upon the first book of Angelic Letter Series only a couple weeks ago. I am half way through book three already. It's not just a love story but more.......it touched the core of my spirit and my walk with Jesus. I can't get enough of the life lessons intertwined throughout the book series. I now tell all my friends and family about the book series that I can not seem to put down. It is captivating and compelling.......it's like when reading the Bible and not wanting to stop because I am captivated by the message God is sending. My daily Life Lesson!

Thank you Mr. Ripplinger for your words of wisdom and compelling love through your writings. You obviously have a tremendous gift from God in writing such magical stories.

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