Urban fantasy is a fantastic genre of English-language fiction, or a subgenre of fantasy, in which the narrative uses supernatural elements in an urban society. Works of urban fantasy may be set in the real world and introduce aspects of fantasy, or in a fantasy world with operating rules recognizably similar to ours. Elements such as discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence or conflict between humans and paranormal beings, and the changes such characters and events bring to local life are the mainspring. Many authors, publishers, and readers distinguish them from works of paranormal romance, which use similar characters and settings, but focus on the romantic relationships between characters. A contemporary setting is not strictly necessary for a work of urban fantasy: works of the genre may also take place in futuristic and historical settings, actual or imagined, as long as the rules remain recognizably those of the present universe.
The term urban fantasy was used in print from as far back as the early 20th century. It originally described a characteristic of some object or place. Horst Schmidt-Brummer's 1973 book about Venice, California is subtitled "An Urban Fantasy", to denote a nostalgic appreciation for the unique city. And in various New York Times advertisements in 1928 through 1930 for the St. Regis hotel, the term implies that the hotel is a sort of paradise: "Never was an urban fantasy so enchanting..."