Few writers today know angels better than Joan Wester Anderson, whose Where Angels Walk was one of the earliest and most successful angel books of the 1990s. Where Angels Walk was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year and has sold nearly 2 million copies worldwide. Anderson, a practicing Catholic, has written several other very successful books on angels and miracles. Her Christian faith informs her belief in the immediacy and intercession of angels.

How It Began
Anderson's books were inspired by a personal experience of angelic intervention that occurred in her own life. Alarmed by a feeling of fear for her son Tim and his friend Jim who were driving home from college for Christmas, Joan prayed earnestly for God to help. The radio reported a record wind chill of -80 degrees Fahrenheit, and warned that stepping outside for just a few minutes could be fatal.

Hours later, when Tim finally called, he related that he and Jim had indeed been in peril. Their car had died on a deserted rural road, and they knew they were in imminent danger of death from exposure. They too prayed for divine help. Almost immediately, from out of nowhere, there appeared a man rapping on the car window. "Need a tow?" he asked.

Startled, the boys turned to find a tow truck had somehow materialized behind them without making a sound or showing any approaching headlights. Its driver towed them back to the home of the friend they had recently dropped off, without a word-and without asking them for directions!-and vanished as mysteriously as he had arrived, leaving only the tracks of Tim's car in the snow.

Moved and surprised by Tim and Jim's story, Anderson, a magazine writer, put out a request for other angelic experiences through a women's magazine and was astounded to receive hundreds of responses, many of which appear in her books.

A decade later, Anderson still revels in "the abundance of God" and the company of the angels. Here, she gives candid answers to questions posed by editor Wendy Schuman.

What in your view are angels? What is their essence? Do you have a kind of working definition?

It's almost more important to state what angels are not--they are not the spirits of people who have died. So often we hear someone say, "My baby died, and now she's our little angel in heaven." It's an understandable sentiment, but not accurate. Angels are a separate creation, perhaps the first God ever made. All faiths that accept the existence of angels--and that's all Western religions and many of the Eastern--see them in the same way: spirit beings without bodies, but able to take on a human form-or any form--if God requires it to carry out His plan. Human beings will become like angels after death, spirits according to most religions, but they will be saints, not angels.

Are angels really necessary as intercessors--why can't we communicate directly with God?

We should, can and most of the time do communicate with God directly. To my knowledge, angels are not necessary for anything. But God's creation is abundant, and asking "Why angels?" would be like asking why there are thousands of varieties of trees or stars, when we could get along with so much less. God Himself told us many times that He was sending angels to love and care for us, so He is the one who brought them into our lives. Therefore, even if we don't understand their entire purpose, I vote that we pay attention to them. Can anyone who wants to have an angelic experience or encounter?

There are people who profess being able to bring on an angel experience for themselves or others. I am willing to keep an open mind on this, but I believe that angels are God's servants, not ours, and they do not show up or perform miraculous deeds on our timetables. Since God doesn't change, and the angels we meet in Scripture do not spend hours or days interacting with humans, I have to assume that angels haven't changed either, and do the same things they did way back when. Is it ever OK to pray to or invoke angels? How do you get in touch?

It's not okay to worship angels--worship belongs only to God. This is a hang-up mainly for Protestants who seem to think that when Catholics and Orthodox Jews state that we pray to angels, we're putting them before God--which is simply not true. I think it is obvious that--if we each have a guardian angel or even if we don't, and angels simply come when necessary--we still should get to know this part of creation. People who do say their lives flow much more easily.

What's the most surprising thing you've discovered about angels?

That so many people believe in them. I thought they were really only accepted or noticed by traditional Catholics--when my first book came out, I thought I was going to have to explain angels to people. I was shocked to be invited on to many talk shows on radio, and people called in without any hint of embarrassment to share their own angel stories.