A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie Bernhard is passionate about reading and writing. Her work(s) have appeared in: Houston Style Magazine, The Mississippi Press, the international Word Among Us, The Texas Review, and the Cowbird-NPR production on small town America essays. 

Johnnie’s first book, A Good Girl (2017) was shortlisted in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Writing Competition, the 2017 Kindle Book Award for Literary Fiction, and the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction of the Year Award. It was a nominee for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and placed in the permanent collection of the Texas State Library and Archive Commission, Texas Center for the Book. 

Johnnie’s second novel, How We Came to Be (2018) was a recipient of the Summerlee Book Prize, HM by the Center for History and Culture at Lamar University. 

Her third novel, Sisters of the Undertow (2020) was chosen for discussion at the 2020 national AWP Conference, the Pat Conroy Literary Center of South Carolina, the Southern Book Festival/Humanities Tennessee, and Words and Music Literary Feast of New Orleans. It was an official selection for the 2020 international Pulpwood Queens Book Club. Named “Best of the University Presses 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses, Sisters of the Undertow was placed in the Texas Center for the 

Book, State Library Collection and received First Place in the Press Women of Texas Communications Book Contest.  Johnnie served as a speaker for the 2020 TED Talk: Fearless Women Series. She also supports young writers in public schools through the Letters About Literature program with the Texas Center for the Book and with the Write for Mississippi program. In 2021, she was named a teaching artist with Gemini Ink Writing Arts Center of San Antonio and the national TAP Summer Institute 2021.  

Johnnie’s family home is located 100 miles from the Texas-Mexico border; hence, the setting of her upcoming novel, covering the very important topic of human trafficking across the border. 

Hannah and Ariela 

Two worlds collide when a seventy-three-year-old widow finds the semi-conscious body of a fourteen-year-old Mexican national in a ditch along a Central Texas remote byway. The question of justice for a victim of human trafficking and the elderly woman who kills the perpetrator lies in the hands of a biracial border patrol officer and an unconventional small-town sheriff.

Hannah Duran is the recent widow and principal owner of a 600-acre working ranch in Edwards County, Texas. Viewed as an eccentric, yet intelligent woman by the locals, Hannah is known for her independent thinking, preferring to live her life by her own moral code, which puts her in conflict with local mores, despite the legacy of her late husband.  

Ariela Morales and Katia Hernandez, two unassuming teens from Zaragoza, Mexico only wanted a manicure as promised by their former school mate, Ricky Alvarez. The decision to get into his truck takes them on a dangerous journey as victims of human trafficking, through the back roads of Northern Mexico and Texas, in preparation for specific clientele attending the NBA Playoffs in Houston. 

The I-10 corridor of Texas connects saints, demons, and victims in the thriller, Hannah and Ariela, as readers follow the underbelly of the cartels, human trafficking, and the voiceless people trapped in a justice system on the verge of collapse.  


  • Every 30 seconds someone is made a victim of human trafficking, according to the DOTD. 
  • Humanity crisis at the Texas-Mexico Border 
  • Immigration Reform 
  • The culture and history shared between the lands bordering Texas and Mexico. 
  • Human Trafficking and Public Awareness 
  • #SOS #SaveOurSisters #SalvarNuetrasHermanas 
  • Hot-Button issues: Human Rights, Human Trafficking, Border Issues/Small Texas Town, Generational Divisions, Cultural Diversity, Racial Prejudice, Ethics vs. Law, Ageism


“In this tensely wired, swiftly paced, starkly realistic story of human trafficking set beautifully among nuanced clashing cultures, author Johnnie Bernhard defines each character’s motivation to portray the collision of opposing sides while casting a wide lens on a human atrocity. Hannah and Ariela is the story of one woman’s bravery in rescuing another, only to rise phoenix-like into a newly defined, far-reaching life purpose.”  New York Journal of Books

“Tough and resilient like the west-central Texas land it is born from, Hannah and Ariela tells a dark yet hopeful story of two women from opposite sides of the border and the sad and harrowing reality of human trafficking.” —Phillippe Diederich, author of Diamond Park

“This story is at once suspenseful and profound, raising provocative questions about the lawfulness of laws and the laws of lawfulness.”—Allen Mendenhall, Publisher and Editor in Chief, Southern Literary Review

“Hannah and Ariela is a brilliant social commentary that needs to be read by every family who loves their children. In Veritas, this fine fictional work does indeed mirror life so closely that it feels truer than reality and serves as a warning to those who may fall victim to predators.” —Marci Henna, Author of the Fireside Series, Executive Producer of WHEN WE LAST SPOKE movie