Following in a parent’s footsteps might mean becoming a lawyer or dental hygienist. For Cas Lowood, it means exterminating menacing poltergeists with an ancient knife. So what’s a boy to do when one of his murderous targets, Anna Dressed in Blood, unexpectedly spares his life? Spare hers in return? Kendare Blake talks graveyard research, corpses under the bed and why she might upset Bill Murray.

Find more great mysteries & thrillers among our 2011 Best Books for Teens.

What prompted you to pinpoint ghost killing as a premise?

Truly? I wanted a subject that was grisly. And I mean deeply unsettling. The idea that these ghosts have to be killed because they are killing innocent people after they had been gruesomely murdered themselves, well, that is one horrible cycle of killing. Also there's something very possible about ghosts. I'm fairly sure, and disappointed, that there are no unicorns. But ghosts? The jury's out.

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Cas says certain “towns aren’t any less haunted than the others. They’re just better liars.” As a whole, are we less likely to believe in ghosts out of lack of courage, respect or something else entirely?

I think, maybe as we grow up, that believing in ghosts is something like believing in the Easter Bunny. We get tangled up in logic and science and that oh-so-tricky thing called proof. Possibility becomes a smaller and smaller area in our brains. At least I think that might be part of it. I don't think it's lack of courage. Deep down almost everybody wants to be afraid, wants the fantastic and the impossible. 

Is there a lurking, ominous poltergeist or would-be urban legend out there you’d like to get rid of?

I’m tempted to name an obnoxious celebrity. But if there was one urban legend that I'd like to get rid of because it scares the bejeezus out of me, it would be the one where the couple staying at the hotel thinks their room smells terrible all night but doesn't say anything. And the next morning they accidentally shift their mattress and find a corpse in the box spring. That's really happened, you know. And if I never had to hear about it again, that'd be just dandy. Yeek.

Werewolves and vampires tend to dominate the realm of supernatural entertainment. Why do you think ghosts, with all of their tragedy, mystery and otherworldly chills and charm, tend to take a cultural back burner these days?

Maybe it's because werewolves and vampires are fantastical creatures with superpowers, which I think people are always fascinated by. They clearly have charisma and dramatic hooks to spare. But I hate to think that ghosts are on the cultural back burner. When ghosts are portrayed as wisps, foggy visions and cold spots, maybe they're a bit less compelling. But a lot of them out there are fantastical creatures with superpowers themselves. I mean, Anna Dressed in Blood isn't just vapor. You can reach out and touch her. Just don't expect your hand back. 

What was the creepiest part of your research, and was there ever a moment where you wished you had a trusty athame in your back pocket?

The creepiest part was probably the cemeteries at dusk. You can be as skeptical as Scully, but in the right graveyard, with the right wind and the right shadows, you have to force yourself to walk slowly. But why force yourself? There's nothing more fun than running out in a panic and having trouble with the gate on the way out. I'm glad I didn't have an athame though. I'm not that coordinated in the first place. Throw in the panic and I'd have probably stabbed myself. 

Cas is an action hero who knows how to wield a ghost-killing knife like nobody’s business, yet he never comes across as arrogant or entitled. How have you walked the line between hero and braggart to maintain his likability?

I think a lot of it was showing some of his vulnerability, the way he questions his choices. Cas has a lot of nerve, but a good heart. And he's just like most of us, up to our eyeballs in scaly defense mechanisms. I mean, he's completely confident when he's up against a ghost with the athame in his hand. That's what he does. But the rest of it, in his day-to-day life, a lot of that's just a mask.

Ghostbusters or Ghostbusters II?

Bill Murray would be mad, but I liked Ghostbusters II as an episodic adventure story. There were a lot of good moments. But the dialogue and one-liners in the first movie can't be beat. The entire scene in the mayor's office just kills me. And all of it is inappropriate to quote here.