Kylo Ren made waves when his tri-bladed lightsaber was first shown in the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and he likewise doesn't carry the designation of "Darth" in his name. This led to much speculation about who, or what, he is. Some of that mystery can been explored before the movie is released.
"Kylo Ren is not a Sith," director JJ Abrams told Empire. "He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force."
He also shared details about the world of the Force Awakens. The First Order isn't just what remains of Empire, it's something different.
"That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?’" Abrams said. "What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?"
That subject was explored a bit in Timothy Zahn's interesting, if not canonical, Thrawn trilogy. One of the interesting details of those books was how the culture in the Empire changed after the Rebellion succeeded. The Emperor was a bit of a xenophobe, hence the fact that command was made up of mostly human males. Thrawn was the only non-human character to hold the highest rank in the Imperial Navy, and his existence was a carefully guarded secret.
The fact that Abrams is going back to that sort of speculation about how the Empire grows and adapts after the events in the original trilogy is incredibly interesting, and a character this prominent who is not a Sith, while carrying such a distinctive lightsaber, is more evidence that things have changed since those first films.Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer