Fairy tales, vampires and novelist Karen Ullo

“The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things,” J.R.R. Tolkien says in the opening of his essay “On Fairy Stories.”

Author Karen Ullo is one storyteller willing to brave this fantastical land, embracing both its highs (fairies) and lows (vampires in search of salvation and the next kill).

Months ago I read Ullo’s first novel, Jennifer the Damned (Wiseblood Books, 2015), as someone little interested in stories about teenagers, vampires, teenage vampires, bloodlust, or gore. Verdict?

I loved it. Jennifer the Damned is the work of a mature and skilled writer with a thoroughly Catholic imagination; God is present at every twist and turn.

Ullo is a graduate of Louisiana State University and the University of Southern California, where she earned an MFA in screenwriting. She blogs for the Catholic literary magazine Dappled Things and serves as the print magazine’s managing editor.

Recently, Ullo was a panelist at the University of Notre Dame’s Trying to Say God conference, where she discussed the topic of women in writing.

She also presented, “Horror: the Genre of the Sacred,” at this year’s Catholic Writers Guild online conference.

Ullo recently released her second novel, Cinder Allia, in which she turns the Cinderella story upside down—Cinderella’s Prince Charming dies before they’ve even met.

She recreates it as another fairy tale, but this time one of political intrigue, espionage, and (of course) romance and magic.

On the occasion of Cinder Allia’s publication, we sat down to discuss fiction writing, fairy tales, and Catholic literature.

Rhonda Ortiz, for CWR: Let’s begin with a short introduction. Who you are, where you’re from, a brief account of what you’ve written?

Karen Ullo: I’m pretty much your average suburban housewife. I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with my husband and two sons, ages nine and six.

I go to a lot of YMCA basketball games and Cub Scout meetings, and I work as the music director at the same Catholic parish where I was baptized and grew up.

So far, I’ve written two novels, Jennifer the Damned, which was published in 2015 by Wiseblood Books, and Cinder Allia, which just came out on July 6 of this year.

I’ve also been writing for Dappled Things literary journal on their blog for about four years, and I just became the managing editor of the journal. Continue reading


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