According to Wikipedia, Urban Fantasy is:
a subset of fantasy defined by place; the fantastic narrative has an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times or contain supernatural elements. However, this is not the primary definition of urban fantasy. Urban fantasy can be set in historical times, modern times, or futuristic times. The prerequisite is that it must be primarily set in a city, rather than in a suburban or country setting, which have their own genre subsets.
Maybe it's because I run primarily in romance circles, but it seems to me that the category I think of as "Urban Fantasy" isn't really urban fantasy at all. The UF books I read blend fantasy, horror and suspense; sometimes a little romance; they're always contemporary or near-future; and there are always some characters with supernatural abilities. The "urban" part seems largely irrelevant to me. "Fantasy" somehow doesn't seem specific enough; I generally think of swords and sorcerers when I think of the general Fantasy genre. ( Also, I think wikipedia might be lying about the other "genre subsets." I've heard the term "pastoral" as relates to romance, but if you asked a book store clerk where they shelve the pastoral fantasy? Thinkin' you're gonna get a blank look there...)
I asked my husband, who's a huge fan of classical (not so much current) Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Horror, what's the difference between fantasy-style paranormal or magic stuff, and horror-style paranormal/magic? He thought that horror is a) usually more graphically violent and b) overlaps the "real world" more; while fantasy is usually some entirely other world with its own rules. I say that's a line that's getting blurrier every day.
It's really time to re-name this category of books that includes Kim Harrison, Patricia Briggs, Kat Richardson, Vicki Pettersson, Jenna Black, Christine Warren, Mark Henry, Jim Butcher, Keri Arthur, Kelley Armstrong, and a hundred others, if for no other reason than books that are the same category in every way except setting are starting to crop up everywhere.
For me it started with Ilona Andrews' On The Edge. No reasonable person could describe this story as Urban-Anything. But it's very much the same kind of story as the Kate Daniels books set in Atlanta.
Then I got the ARC for Barbara Monajem's Sunrise in the Garden of Love and Evil (review coming up 3/30), and shortly after that picked up Diana Rowland's Blood of the Demon, both set in rural Louisiana. In Elisabeth Naughton's upcoming Marked, the "our world" parts of the story are set in a small New England town and the countryside around it. And most of the action in Nalini Singh's Psy/Changeling series is fairly countrified (another way she polarizes the Psy and the Changeling races, but that's another post!).
These are heroines that are comfortable with shotguns, The Dixie Chicks, and good old boys. They're more likely to encounter tobacco chew than Jimmy Choo.
Although I don't have a cite, I recall one of the actresses from the 1980's show Designing Women talking about audiences being "ready" for the slower, slyer pacing of "southern" humor, as opposed to the typical city settings of most of the popular shows of the time-- it seemed like everything was set in LA or New York.
What about you? Are you ready for Non-Urban Fantasy? What the heck do we call it? And should it have its own name? Or do we need a new name for these books... and what would it be? I'm thinking something like... "contemporary paranormal". Descriptive, but not restrictive.