Interview: Alethea Kontis on “Tales of Arilland”

Step into the enchanting, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world of fairy tales in Alethea Kontis’ Tales of Arilland. Alethea received a volume of unexpurgated fairy tales for her eight birthday, and the impact of reading those stories of magic, monsters, darkness, blood, and hope is clear in the nine tales in this wonderful collection.

Tales of Arilland is available for a limited time in The Realm of Faerie bundle.

Enter the Realm of Faerie, a world of beauty, danger, and enchantment. But remember the legends if you want to make it back home again…


“I will listen,” said the frog. “Read me your story, the story that you have just written there, and I will listen.”

It was completely absurd. Absurd that Sunday was somewhere in the middle of the Wood talking to a frog who wanted her to make him what she desired most in the world: a captive audience to her words. It was so absurd, in fact, that she started reading from the top of the page in her book without another thought.

“’My name is Sunday Woodcutter—’”

“Grumble,” croaked the frog.

“If you’re going to grumble through the whole thing, why did you ask me to read it in the first place?”

“You said your name was Sunday Woodcutter,” said the frog, “and I thought it only fitting to introduce myself in kind. My name is Grumble.”

“Oh.” Her face felt hot. Sunday wondered briefly if frogs could tell that a human was blushing, or if they were one of the many other colorblind denizens of the forest. “It’s very nice to meet you.”

“Thank you,” said Grumble. “Please, carry on with your story.”

—from “Sunday” in Tales of Arilland by Alethea Kontis

The Interview

One of the stories in this collection is “Sunday,” a novelette that inspired your award-winning novel Enchanted. What made you decide to expand on this story?

I knew before even writing “Sunday” that it was bigger than a short story. (The minute the character of Aunt Joy and her nameday gifts popped into my head.) I made a promise to myself that I would only write the “abridged version” if I promised to go back and write the novel. (The novel took me five years…but I did it!)

You write stories that are magical and beautiful, and are sometimes dark and haunting. What do you enjoy about writing darker stories?

I believe in hope, above all things. But—just like science tells us—light shines brightest in the darkest night. We all have varying shades of dysfunctional lives. But that doesn’t mean we should ever give up hope, no matter how sorely we are tempted.

“Sweetheart Come,” in Tales of Arilland, is a story about werewolves and love. What inspired you to write this story?

It was actually inspired by the Nick Cave song of the same name. My little sister suggested it—I had never heard it before—and I was instantly enchanted by the recurring violin solo. “Today’s the time for courage, babe—tomorrow can be for forgiving.”

You review books for NPR (National Public Radio)! What have you learned from doing this?

There came a time when I realized that I had been writing (and worrying about my career) so much that I wasn’t reading anymore. That thought devastated me. When I first queried the review editor at NPR, she asked what genre I would prefer. I instantly chose contemporary YA romance because 1.) I do not know a lot of authors in this genre so there would be few conflicts of interest and 2.) the books would bring me joy. Boy, was I right about #2. I had no idea how much! It’s been a year now, and I am thankful for this column every day.

The original fairy tales were often cautionary tales, told to teach lessons. Do you find some of these lessons still apply in today’s world?

You know what I’ve found? The more fairy tales I read, the more I realize that most of them didn’t really teach anything. (I cover a lot of these in my “Fairy Tale Rants” on YouTube.) There are some STRANGE fairy tales, about cats deceiving mice and disembodied heads falling down chimneys and pins and needles getting too drunk to drive home (there are multiple stories about inebriated pins and needles!). Popular household stories over the years—and even now, over the internet–have always been kind of strange. Back then, they generally gave the impression that clever people would be rewarded over lazy ones, and the more generous the soul, the more generous the reward. Those kinds of stories are still told and touted…but I suspect the general public pays them about as much attention now as they did Way Back When.

What do and/or don’t you like about traditional fairy tales?

What I do like: Fairy tales were my first love. I believe they instilled within me a deep and abiding love for all genre fiction. There is adventure, mystery, romance, fantasy, horror…all of it…and I think at this point I’ve written short stories set in every single one!

What I don’t like: I personally despise the “Little Red Riding Hood” fairy tale. Hate it with the passion of 1000 fiery suns. Always have. Couldn’t tell you why. Of course, I ended up being required to write a retelling…so I set it in Arilland and cast Jack Woodcutter as the hero of the piece. I still don’t care for Red Riding Hood, but “Hero Worship” is now one of my favorite stories to read aloud to audiences!

What are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I am currently working on a middle grade manuscript that is sort of…Stranger Things meets The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It’s 100% inspired by all my fabulous real-life storm chasing adventures and SO MUCH FUN TO WRITE!

About Alethea

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.

Find Alethea

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Wattpad ~ YouTube ~ Goodreads

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