Christian novels have a rich tradition in Europe, which goes back several centuries, and draws on past Christian allegorical literature, such as Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress, The Holy War. Other authors of Christian novels include Karen Kingsbury, Judith Mc Coy Miller, Tracie Peterson, Bethany Kennedy Scanlon, Tosca Lee and Robert Whitlow.
Twentieth century proponents of the Christian novel in English include J. Some authors of Christian novels have received a mixed reception within the conservative Christian community. Young's best-selling theological novel The Shack, for example, was strongly criticised by some reviewers.
Popular authors of Christian novels include Francine Rivers in the romance subgenre, and Ted Dekker and Robert Liparulo in the thriller/suspense subgenre.
Nor does the plot need to turn on whether any given character is a Christian or not—although many Christian novels do have plots that explicitly reference persecution (in the past, the present, or the future), Bible history, or unfulfilled prophecy (as in the immensely popular Left Behind series).
Aslan in Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe allegorically represents Christ, for example, while L'Engle's A Live Coal in the Sea explicitly references the medieval allegorical poem Piers Plowman. Publication of such Christian novels has increased greatly from this beginning, and excellence in the genre is now recognised by the Christy Awards, although an article in Christianity Today recently argued that such use of popular forms risks "foisting on the world impoverished—even laughable—expressions of those genres." In North America, the Christian novel has evolved into a specific genre of its own, written explicitly by and for Christians of a particular type.
Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is viewed as mainstream fantasy, while Julian May's Galactic Milieu Series is viewed as mainstream science fiction, in spite of the references to the work of Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Books such as Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (1979) and This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti (1985), combining a specific brand of conservative Christian theology with a popular romance or thriller form, have gained approval in the subculture, just as in earlier times Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ helped make the novel acceptable to conservative religious people of the day.
Chesterton's Father Brown stories are mainstream detective fiction, even though the main character is a Catholic priest In the last few centuries the existence of a conservative Christian subculture, particularly in North America, has given rise to a specific genre of Christian novel.
Deborah Bryan of the Kansas Library Association suggests that this genre of books typically promotes values, teaches a lesson, always has a happy ending (good prevails over evil in all books), adheres to a decency code (certain boundaries such as sexuality, strong language, and topics of such cannot be crossed), and that Christian fiction is created for defined boundaries within a particular community.
Urban Christian fiction is a genre in which conflicting stories of emotion and vividness mixes God, the urban church, and faith. Some book titles and authors of urban Christian fiction are: Married Strangers by Dwan Abrams, Sheena's Dream by Marilyn Mayo Anderson, First Comes Love by Shana Johnson Burton, Count It All Joy by Ashea Goldson, Secrets and Lies by Rhonda Mc Knight, 'Til Debt Do Us Part by Michelle Larks, and Soul Confessions by Monique Miller.
Violence and sex is not purposely excluded, but are included whenever necessary for the story line. Some book titles and authors of urban Christian fiction are: Married Strangers by Dwan Abrams, Sheena's Dream by Marilyn Mayo Anderson, First Comes Love by Shana Johnson Burton, Count It All Joy by Ashea Goldson, Secrets and Lies by Rhonda Mc Knight, 'Til Debt Do Us Part by Michelle Larks, and Soul Confessions by Monique Miller. Urban Christian fiction is classified as part of the African-American Christian Market (AACM), where the hot-selling topics are fiction, books for dating, dramatic testimony, and single parenting.