The author admits that her fans sometimes plead with her to spare their favorites

By Brian Orloff
Updated July 26, 2007 10:00 AM

J.K. Rowling admits that any one of the beloved main characters in her popular series could have died in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – though, she concedes, “I don’t even kill fictional characters lightly.”

Spoiler alert: Some plot elements are about to be revealed.

Speaking on Thursday’s Today show, the author, 41, told Meredith Vieira – and a small group of children gathered at her feet during the interview – that she purposely tried to build suspense around Harry’s fate.

“I’m very proud of the fact that as we went into this book, many, many readers thought it was a real possibility that Harry would die,” she said. “That’s what I was aiming for – that everyone was up for grabs.”

Rowling said with a nod to the youngsters in her midst that the demands of her core readership affect her emotionally – though they don’t always influence the characters’ outcomes.

“I can remember meeting a boy who said to me, ‘Please don’t ever kill Hagrid, Dumbledore or Sirius,’ ” Rowling, sounding somber, told Vieira. “And I knew that I had already done it – I had killed Sirius.”

But the author said that she takes great care when she kills off her characters. “The deaths were all very, very considered,” she said in response to a query from one young fan.

In fact, Rowling said that some of the more intense passages were incredibly emotional for her, and she admitted to crying while writing Chapter 34 of the last Harry Potter installment. (The chapter has Harry in the forest with some characters who have passed on.)

Still, Rowling says she’s glad to be finished with the series, calling this time an “amazing, cathartic moment.”

“At this moment, it feels great,” she told Vieira. “This is a great place to be.”