“Blood & Water” is in Water Faeries, the fourth volume in the anthology series A Procession of Faeries.
Jump into the waves, and enter the world of Faerie!
Alethea weaves fairy tale fantasy in the realm of Arilland, and dabbles in other fantasy worlds as well. She’s been a guest speaker about fairy tales at the Library of Congress, and gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
“Blood & Water”
A mermaid falls in love with the man she rescued from the sea. She’s willing to pay any price to be with him, for she loves him more than life itself. But is the price of love too high?
Once the transformation began, the pain pushed all other thoughts out of her head. Water left her as suddenly as her soul had left her, her gills closing up after it. The pressure that filled her chest made her eyes want to pop out. She clamped her mouth shut, instinct telling her that she could no longer breathe her native water. She beat furiously with her tail, fleeing for the surface.
Halfway there, the other pain began. It started at the ends of her fin and spread upwards, like bathing in an oyster garden. The sharpness bit into her, skinning her, slicing her to her very core. Paralyzed, she let her momentum and the pressure in her chest pull her closer to the sky. Part of her hoped she could trust the magic enough to get her there. Part of her didn’t care. It wanted to die, and knew it could not.
That price had already been paid.
—from “Blood & Water” by Alethea Kontis
How did you come up with the idea of combining mermaid and vampire mythology?
Back when I used to drive a lot more, I kept a small notebook in my car to jot down thoughts and inspirations when I was at a stoplight or rest area. While I was visiting my friend Brandi in Charleston, SC, she flipped through the book. She stopped on a page where I had scribbled “Vampire” and “Mermaid.” “What’s a Vampire Mermaid?” she asked me. And the seed was planted!
You minored in marine science, and used some of your knowledge about hydrothermal vents in this story. Has this knowledge come in handy for other stories as well?
Yes, indeed–I majored in Chemistry and minored in Marine Science. I LOVED the hydrothermal vents. Loved them. My dream was to spend my life out in the middle of the ocean on some great research ship, surrounded by stars and smelling like fish and maybe even going down in the Alvin (a deep sea research vessel). Sure, I was writing stories and starring on TV when I was eight, but at school I was 100% math and science girl. Every time I fall down a research rabbit hole, it’s usually science-based. Like binary star systems (for “Savage Planet”), or nanotechnology (“Pocket Full of Posey), or cryotech (“True.love”). For the novel Dearest, I spent an entire day researching nettles. Did you know you can make a nettle tea that changes color when you add a slice of lemon? THAT’S CHEMISTRY, BABY! #NerdAlert
In addition to writing stories, you also narrate audio books. What do you enjoy about narrating other people’s stories?
No matter how old a person is when they start acting, if they ever stop, they always miss it. When I write, I am the narrator, of course. But every time I sit in the studio and read, I become the narrator in a way that I could only ever touch while acting. The motivation, the dialogue, the delivery… Somewhere in the back of my mind it feels like all the monologues I used to memorize for auditions–only I don’t have to memorize these stories! Which leaves me even more energy to give the story my all.
Is there a fairy tale that you really enjoy, or which has stuck with you? If so, which one—and what do you find compelling about this particular story?
My favorite fairy tale growing up was always “The Goose Girl.” The girl/princess, though passive, is a magic user but not a witch. Her talking horse gets its head chopped off, but never really dies. The princess has a good heart and never changes, despite the horrible things that happen to her. In the end, the evil maid in the story ends up dying a gruesome death that she devises herself. (Unlike Snow White, who murdered her stepmother at her own wedding.) I think I loved “The Goose Girl” because everyone stayed true to who they were, and everything just worked out the way it should in the end.
My new favorite fairy tale is “Old Rinkrank”…but mostly because I got to retell it as “The Glass Mountain,” which might be my favorite story I’ve ever written.
What difference do you see between today’s fairy tale retellings, and the types of fairy tales that were told hundreds of years ago?
It’s interesting to see what contemporary people are “afraid” of, and what they will change in the story to make it more palatable to the masses. Interestingly, this topic has been a concern of fairy tale archivists since the beginning of time–Andrew Lang and J.R.R. Tolkien both wrote about how “modern” retellings took out a lot of the harsh realities of the “original” tellings…and whether or not they should. (Most–including me–agree they should not.)
You’re a storm chaser! Tell us what you love about chasing storms. And will you wear the same fabulous tiara as last year?
Going back to my science background–I have always been in love with the beauty of this world. (Seriously–my first best friend was a tree.) I remember stealing my dad’s Miranda camera with the giant lens and taking pictures of everything from sunsets to tree stumps. In May in Middle America, the skies are BREATHTAKING. And yes…sometimes even dangerous. As many beautiful things in nature can be. Plus, we often run into other chasers while on the road: similar nerds from all over the world with similar loves of photography, who worship the Giant Skies.
I will definitely be breaking out my Ozma tiara again, for sure! Be sure to follow my travels on patreon.com/princessalethea.
What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?
Right now, I am in love with the middle grade manuscripts I’m working on. I just finished the novelization of “Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome,” and I’m about to start one about a young girl, a bunch of goblins and brownies, and four fairy queens. I’ve also got one in the works that involves storm chasing–of course! The working title is “Oz or Bust.” I’m super excited about all three of these!
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Alethea Kontis is a princess, a voice actress, and a force of nature. She is responsible for creating the epic fairytale fantasy realm of Arilland, and dabbling in a myriad of other worlds beyond. Her award-winning writing has been published for multiple age groups across all genres. She is the host of “Princess Alethea’s Fairy Tale Rants” and Princess Alethea’s Traveling Sideshow every year at Dragon Con. Alethea has narrated for ACX, IGMS, Escape Pod, Pseudopod, Cast of Wonders, Shimmer, Apex Magazine and Clarkesworld Magazine, and she contributes regular YA book reviews to NPR.
Alethea’s YA fairy tale novel, Enchanted, won both the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award and Garden State Teen Book Award. Enchanted was nominated for the Audie Award in 2013 and was selected for World Book Night in 2014. Both Enchanted and its sequel, Hero, were nominated for the Andre Norton Award. Tales of Arilland, a short story collection set in the same fairy tale world, won a second Gelett Burgess Award in 2015. The second book in The Trix Adventures, Trix and the Faerie Queen, was a finalist for the Dragon Award in 2016. Alethea was nominated for the Dragon Award again in 2018, for her YA paranormal rom-com When Tinker Met Bell. In 2019, the third in her Harmswood Academy trilogy–Besphinxed–was nominated for a Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
Princess Alethea was given the honor of speaking about fairy tales at the Library of Congress in 2013. In 2015, she gave a keynote address at the Lewis Carroll Society’s Alice150 Conference in New York City, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She also enjoys speaking at schools and festivals all over the US. (If forced to choose between all these things, she says middle schools are her favorite!)
Born in Burlington, Vermont, Alethea currently lives on the Space Coast of Florida. She makes the best baklava you’ve ever tasted and sleeps with a teddy bear named Charlie.