Student Highlight & Book Launch: Ned Hayes, MDiv

Written by Hannah Crivello
March 20, 2014

What do Alice Walker, the school?s Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor, and Intel have in common? This month, Intel Product Manager and former Divinity student at Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry Ned Hayes, launched his first major novel with New York-based Campanile Books -- crediting the school?s Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor as a source of inspiration. Ned references Alice Walker when talking about his plotline: ?Throughout the process of writing the book, I began to deeply feel the truth of Alice Walker?s words. Walker once said that she was writing down the story of ?ghosts??of real people who want their stories told in the present.? Having worked in the software industry for many years, it was an unexpected twist of events that inspired Ned to create the new novel ?Sinful Folk,? featuring illustrations by the Pacific Northwest?s own acclaimed New York Times bestselling illustrator and author, Nikki McClure.

Ned had previously done graduate work in medieval literature, and his appreciation for the rich field of theology and narrative grew deeper in Seattle University?s Master of Divinity program. Upon entering Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry, Ned studied under Dr. Mark Lloyd Taylor, looking at theology through the new lens of a feminist and Catholic perspective.? While reading theological literature from the medieval era at Seattle University, he remembered a story from the 14th century that impacted him and stayed with him, resulting in inspiration for his latest book. The feminist theological perspective became increasingly important, as he began to write from the point of view of a fourteenth century woman of Jewish heritage, who acts as a theological interpreter and truth-teller in her community.

Ned says that his work at Seattle University in the Hebrew Bible and Catholic liturgical practice were important seeds, out of which this novel grew. It was within the context of studying these subjects that Ned was inspired to write this medieval story. Ned shares:

?I really credit Dr. Taylor and Seattle University for inspiring me to write stories that are about redemption and transcendence. The theology I studied was relevant for me in ways I hadn?t anticipated.?

Ned continued studies at Luther Seminary as a Heritage Fellow, while continuing to work in the software industry. While Ned found that full-time ministry as leader of a faith community wasn?t for him, he shares that he now sees his ministry coming out in writing?through telling sacred stories of forgiveness.

?Sinful Folk? is the story of one mother?s journey across medieval England, following a suspicious house fire that burned five children to death in December of the year 1377. Mear, a former nun and mother disguised as a mute man, travels 200 miles across England in midwinter with a small band of villagers to demand justice. ?Sinful Folk? is the story of their treacherous journey as witnessed by Mear, who began her journey in terror and heartache, and ends it in triumph and transcendence.

This past month, ?Sinful Folk? was a #1 Best-Seller in the Historical Fiction category on Amazon, and has received acclaim from a number of reviewers and early readers. Ned reflects:

?I don?t think I think I could have written a book on a Catholic feminist theologian with Jewish roots without Seattle University and the diversity of perspectives afforded to me by Seattle University?s School of Theology and Ministry. What I found really inspiring about the school was the ability for people of different approaches to find common ground and to learn from each other. I found that to be really very healthy, inspiring and stimulating. The experience opened my eyes to things I had never considered before?a lot of the work around feminist theology, Hebrew understanding of scripture and also Catholic and Jesuit approaches taught me how to write from different perspectives, and honor those voices.?

For more information about ?Sinful Folk,? visit

For more information about the Master of Divinity program, visit here