Fairy Tales for Grown Ups

Did you sigh over Cinderella when you were young? I know I did. Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast–they are all classic stories with memorable characters and plot points that hit the hot buttons in the human psyche.

My guest today, Helen Johannes, makes it a point to reimagine these stories in fresh  retellings. She and I had a little cyber-chat the other day. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and listen in… 

Mia: Thanks for visiting with us today, Helen. We’d like to get to know a little more about you. What were your favorite books growing up?

PrinceHelen: Fairy tales and books about horses, definitely. My earliest favorite book was a collection of fairy tales for young readers. Besides the well-known tales of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, this one had stories like The Donkey Prince, Snow White and Rose Red, The Tin Soldier, and The Dancing Princesses, to name a few. I’ve always been drawn to the stories about heroes in disguise, about people who are misjudged or discounted by others because of appearances. The Donkey Prince, for instance, is about a prince born with a donkey’s body due to a curse on his parents. They give him the best of everything, and he becomes a skilled lute player, but he’s still a donkey. Tired of being looked upon as a freak in his home town, he decides to take to the road, playing his lute, until one young woman falls in love with the sensitive man inside the ugly skin. That transformation from beast to beloved is a theme that I’ve always enjoyed reading, and it’s probably what drew me to the romance genre in the most elemental sense.

And horse books—what little girl doesn’t love horses (or unicorns)? The stories of a boy and his horse, or a girl and her horse, feeds right into my historical bent. I do so love a hero on horseback with a sword. From fairy tales to medieval knights isn’t a big leap, especially when fairy tales led me to THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy and Middle Earth. It’s no wonder that my two published novels are fantasy romances featuring heroes on horseback with swords.

Mia: I hear you. I think every 12 year old girl goes through a horse phase. I know I did. What can you tell us about your workspace/writing process?

Helen: I write in the kitchen on a laptop at the table where I’ve installed my cushy office chair. I like the sunlight from my southerly window and the easy access to the microwave for hot tea. Sometimes I listen to music while I write, usually a soundtrack or something Celtic-inspired. I need something where I don’t understand the lyrics so I won’t try to listen to them. The music for me is about creating a ‘zone.’

My process involves mulling an idea for a character/story until I think I have enough to sustain a plot. This might take years for any one idea to come to the top of the ‘mulling’ pile. Plus, even though I’m a ‘pantser,’ I don’t like writing more than one story at a time. That means the new idea has to percolate while I finish the one I’m writing. Once I get started, I ‘discover’ more about my characters and their story in the act of writing it. Sometimes they provide me with serendipitous surprises. Of course, then I have to go back to earlier chapters and add in something or another, but those ‘Wow!’ moments are part of the reward for me as story-teller. And they usually make a pretty cool ‘reveal’ in the story too.

Mia: Sounds like you enjoy the discovery process. I too am a pantser and while it gives my palpitations sometimes not to have a hard and fast roadmap, I figure if I’m surprised by what happens, my readers will be too! What’s the best thing about being an author?

Helen: Realizing a dream has to be the foremost. To anyone who has any aspirations to be published someday—or to achieve any other creative dreams—I’d like to affirm that turtles do win.


That’s right—turtles, the slow and steady plodders. I am a turtle. It’s taken me years to realize my dream of becoming a published author. Lots of rejection letters, contest finals, conferences and workshops later, I have two books available from The Wild Rose Press. I’m not likely to become a household name, but I can hold my dreams in my hand today. So can you. Just keep plodding along.

Mia: Thanks for those encouraging words. I’m a firm believer in setting goals. Now what can you tell us about your latest book? 

Helen: My most recently realized ‘dream’ is BLOODSTONE, a beauty-and-the-beast-inspired fantasy romance available now on Amazon Kindle. I’d love to share it with you.

What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?

BloodstoneYears ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…

Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man—not a fiend—hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

Mia: Sounds great! Now it’s time for our lightning round questions? 
– Favorite Food?
Fresh baked bread
– Favorite Vacation Spot?
Anyplace warm with a water view (the ocean is especially nice)
– Favorite TV Show?
– Favorite Paranormal? (witch, vampire, zombie etc)
Shape shifters and elves
– Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate?
Tea, dark and steeped 5 minutes
– Favorite Ice Cream Flavor?
Bordeaux Cherry Chocolate
– Favorite author?
Susan Elizabeth Phillips for her complex characters and deeply emotional stories; Rick Riordan for his fast-paced stories of adventure and updating of myth

Visit Helen at her blog: http://helencjohannes.blogspot.com/
Buy link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bloodstone-Helen-C-Johannes-ebook/dp/B00G8GTHRC/ref=pd_rhf_se_p_tnr_5
Goodreads Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4031965.Helen_C_Johannes

I will offer a copy of my first book THE PRINCE OF VAL-FEYRIDGE, (US Kindle or US Nook format only) to a lucky commenter. 

Helen JohannesGrowing up, Helen C. Johannes read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication.


Plaid to the BonePlaid to the Bone, the prequel for Plaid Tidings, is available FREE for a limited time!  Find it for: Nook | iBooks | Sony

If you don’t have one of those ereaders, did you know you can download the Nook software to your phone, tablet or PC? Here’s the link: FREE Nook Apps

Plaid to the Bone and the Spirit of the Highlands series by Mia Marlowe is the perfect read-a little humor, a little romance, a little sex and a little mystery all rolled into a tale of the Scottish Highlands.” ~ The Reading Cafe

Now before you run off to claim your Highland hero, why not share your favorite fairy tale with Helen and me? 


21 thoughts on “Fairy Tales for Grown Ups

  1. Wonderful interview ladies! I love the fairy tale idea that the beast gets redeemed when he allows himself to be loved as well, Helen. Enjoyed this very much! Embracing my inner turtle as I type ;)

    1. Slow and steady, Morganne!
      I think you’ve pegged it: a love story is not only about giving love but accepting it too.

  2. Hi Helen and Mia,

    My favorite fairy tale would have to be Cinderella. I’m a sucker for rags-to-riches stories.

    Helen, your book sounds like a fun read. The setting is intriguing.

    1. I love Cinderella, too, Barb. It’s that reward for being kind and loving and not caring about riches that keeps her fairy tale in our hearts.

  3. Amy H says:

    I love fairy tales! I love the series Once Upon A Time on ABC. My two Disney favs are Beauty in the Beast, and the other is The Little Mermaid. I love Belle because she is a brunette(so am I) and loves books! I find beast more attractive as a beast oddly. Gaston is a jerk. I love The Little Mermaid because I wanted to be one and was always fascinated with the ocean.

    1. What’s not to like about a girl who loves books? And, yes, in the Disney movie the beast is so much more attractive than his human form.

  4. Kirsten says:

    Beauty and the beast, at first because beauty was a brunette, like me :D Later because it tells us how important it is, to love someone for WHO they are inside. A great message and I also really loved the film with the singing teapot :)

    (Don’t have an ereader so i’ll pass on the giveaway)

  5. Mary Hughes says:

    Love the interview! I too am fond of Beauty and the Beast although I also like Hansel and Gretel for all the food :) No need to enter me in the drawing, I have The Prince of Val-Feyridge in both formats already.

  6. I agree. The choice has to be about who’s willing to change and why. Gaston sees nothing wrong with himself; he’s the perfect man. The Beast knows he’s flawed, but he can’t see any reason to change if everyone else thinks the same. Shrek the ogre is very much this kind of Beast, and I also love Shrek. Fiona and Donkey see something worthy in Shrek, and that makes him begin to think he can live up to their expectations.

    1. Glenda says:

      Oh I totally loved Shrek and the lesson it taught! Beast and Shrek both needed to learn that it is what’s inside that counts. All of Beast’s anger issues are a result of hating what he became through his own selfishness. He learned that lesson, but is depressed because he believes himself unworthy of love.

      I’ve met way too many empty shells of people like Gaston who are all looks and no substance. I could never have a lasting relationship with someone like that.

  7. Glenda says:

    I loved all the Disney fairy tales growing up. My favorite has always been Beauty and the Beast … of course I was an adult by the time Disney did it. I liked the fact that Beauty fell in love with the person NOT his appearance. After all good looks don’t last forever.

    1. I dunno. If I were Belle, I think I would’ve gone for Gaston. He’s full of himself, but fun—not to mention handsome. And no emotional baggage, something The Beast has way too much of. Especially anger issues. I’d much rather have a man whose weakness is vanity rather than one whose weakness is wrath.

      1. Mia Marlowe says:

        Gaston has a great voice, too, and he uses antlers in all of a his decorating. Oh, what a guy! However, he’s an empty suit. Belle is smart enough to know the old saying “Handsome is as handsome does.”

        Beast has cause for his anger and most of it is directed at himself.

  8. Linda says:

    As a child I liked Disney’s Sleeping Beauty too. The princess being brought up by 3 fairy Godmothers then meeting her prince in the forest. & the Prince had Character! (I despaired of the Prince in Snow White) but now my fav is by far Beauty & the Beast. It’s the library I reckon that I can’t resist. And the scarred hero.

    1. I have a thing for those scarred heroes, too. Both of my books feature them.

    2. Mia Marlowe says:

      There is something about a wounded hero that makes us want to fix him.

  9. Thanks for hosting me, Mia. It’s a pleasure to be here. Sleeping Beauty in the Disney version has one of my favorite villains,Maleficent, the shape-shifting dragon-fairy.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      She was magnificently terrifying when I was a kid.

  10. Thank you for your interview, Helen and Mia. My favorite fairy tale was and still is “Sleeping Beauty”. And the most influential. Many of my protagonists must go through a life in suspension.

    Princess Aurora is the ultimate passive character. Her sleep is a metaphor for death or a death-like existence. Yet she awakens from it; how? Through the power of love, embodied by Prince Phillip. Such a wonderful statement about what love can do.

    Good luck with the release of “Bloodstone”!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      My imagination is running a bit with the idea of Sleeping Beauty. If I wrote sci-fi, I think my Beauty would wake having made an inter-stellar flight and the Prince she expected to see isn’t there.

      1. There’s an idea for a futuristic romance!

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