Hilary Mantel has become the first woman to win the coveted Man Booker prize for fiction twice with Bring Up the Bodies, the sequel to her acclaimed Wolf Hall.

Chair of judges Peter Stothard described the British woman as the "greatest modern English prose writer".

He told reporters she had rewritten the art of historical fiction.

Two men had previously "done the double" - JM Coetzee who was born in South Africa and Australia's Peter Carey.

As well as the £50,000 (€61,500) prize money, the winner of the Man Booker prize is virtually guaranteed a significant spike in sales.

Research by the Guardian newspaper showed that Ms Mantel's Wolf Hall, for example, sold 35,900 copies before the award was announced and nearly 600,000 afterwards.

Wolf Hall, her re-imagining of the rise of blacksmith's son Thomas Cromwell to the top of the court of King Henry VIII, won the prize in 2009.

Bring Up the Bodies, published by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate, picks up the action in 1535 with Anne Boleyn's spectacular fall from grace and execution the following year.

Mr Stothard said: "This is a bloody story of the death of Anne Boleyn and the pursuit of Anne Boleyn, but Hilary Mantel is a writer who thinks through the blood.

"She uses her power of prose to create moral ambiguity and the real uncertainty about political life then."

There could yet be a third Booker prize for Ms Mantel as the final part of her epic trilogy, called The Mirror and the Light, is expected to hit shelves in 2015.

Mr Stothard, who is editor of the Times Literary Supplement, likened the character of Cromwell to Don Corleone of the famous "Godfather" film series.

"If you are looking for comparing it with things, you can see as much Don Corleone in this book as DH Lawrence," he said in London's Guildhall, where the prize was announced at a glitzy dinner.

"There is certainly a Godfather element to this book including, I have to say, the moral ambiguity of the Don Corleone/Thomas Cromwell figure.

"The way she uses language to make you slightly uncertain as to whether or not Cromwell is acting wrongly or rightly, or sincerely or insincerely ... is all created by prose."