Tag Archives: Andrea Cefalo

Star-Crossed Lovers Week: Heloise’s First Letter to Abelard

Heloïse imagined in a mid-19th-century engraving

Heloïse imagined in a mid-19th-century engraving (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the time this letter was written, Heloise and Abelard had been parted for over a decade.  Never once had Abelard sent Heloise a letter recognizing the immense sacrifice she made for him or to check after her well-being.  Heloise’s response below comes after a letter was passed to her from a third-party in which Abelard wrote of his fears for his life at the hands of his own pupils.  After ten years of separation, Heloise worries after her lover of so long ago and writes poetically of her devotion to him and yet pain at his ignoring her.  And so while Heloise and Abelard may have been the Romeo and Juliet of their time, so may Heloise have been the Shakespeare, as well.  Below are bits and pieces of Heloise’s first letter to Abelard.

Not long ago my beloved, by chance someone brought me the letter of consolation you had sent to a friend.  I saw at once from the superscription that it was yours, and was all the more eager to read it since the writer is so dear to my heart.  I hoped for renewal of strength, at least from the writer’s words which would picture for me the reality I have lost.  But nearly every line of this letter was filled, I remember, with gall and wormwood, as it told the pitiful story of our entry into religion and the cross of unending suffering which you, my only love, continue to bear.

…You revealed the persecution you suffered from your teachers, the supreme treachery of the mutilation of your person, and then described the abominable jealousy and violent attacks of your fellow students. 

…No one, I think, could read or hear it dry-eyed; my own sorrows are renewed in the detail in which you have told it, and redoubled because you say your perils are still increasing. …We beseech you to write as often as you think fit to us who are His handmaids and yours.

…You have dealt us fresh wounds of grief as well as re-opening the old.  I beg you, then, as you set about tending the wounds which others have dealt, heal the wounds you have yourself inflicted.

…In the precarious early days of our conversion long ago I was not a little surprised and troubled by your forgetfulness, when neither reverence for God nor our mutual love nor the example of the holy Father made you think of trying to comfort me, wavering and exhausted as I was by prolonged grief, either by word when I was with you or by letter when we had parted.  Yet you must know that you are bound to me by an obligation which is all the greater for the further close tie of the marriage sacrament uniting us, and are the deeper in my debt because of the love I have always borne you, as everyone knows a love which is beyond all bounds.

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, Héloïse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know, beloved, as the whole world knows, how much I have lost in you, how at one wretched stroke of fortune that supreme act of flagrant treachery robbed me of my very self in robbing me of you; and how my sorrow for my loss is nothing compared with what I feel for the manner in which I lost you. Surely the greater the cause for grief the greater the need for the help of consolation, and this no one can bring but you; you are the sole cause of my sorrow, and you alone can grant me the grace of consolation.  You alone have the power to make me sad, to bring me happiness or comfort; you alone have so great a debt to repay me, particularly now when I have carried out all your orders so implicitly that when I was powerless to oppose you in anything, I found strength at your command to destroy myself.  I did more, strange to say—my love rose to such heights of madness that it robbed itself of what it most desired beyond hope of recovery, when immediately at your bidding I changed my clothing along with my mind, in order to prove you the sole possessor of my body and my will alike.  God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself; I wanted simply you, nothing of yours.  I looked for no marriage-bond, no marriage portion, and it was not my own pleasures and wishes I sought to gratify, as you well know, but yours.  The name of wife may seem more sacred or more binding, but sweeter for me will always be the word mistress, or if you will permit me, that of concubine or whore.  I believed that the more I humbled myself on your account, the more gratitude I should win from you, and also the less damage I should do to the brightness of your reputation. …You kept silent about most of my arguments for preferring love to wedlock and freedom to chains.  God is my witness that if Augustus, Emperor of the whole world, thought fit to honor me with marriage and conferred all on the earth to possess forever, it would be dearer and more honorable to me to be called not his Empress but your whore.

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales.  To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:

Source:  Héloïse, and Peter Abelard. The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. Trans. Betty Radice. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. Print.

Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week: Vlad the Impaler

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day four of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week brings us to a man  Immortalized as the love-sick vampire of Bram Stroker’s Dracula, Vlad the Impaler is probably the most infamous of the Maddest Medieval Monarchs. We often expect the fiction of a villain to be more sensational than the history, but the details of Vlad III’s life are far more horrific than those in the literary classic that made him famous.
Article written by Andrea Cefalo

Vlad III “The Impaler” of Wallachia

Vlad Ţepeş, the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia (...

Vlad Ţepeş, the Impaler, Prince of Wallachia (1456-1462) (died 1477) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vlad III inherited his famous epithet, Dracula, from his father.  Vlad II Dracul was a member of the Order of the Dragon, a chivalric order developed to protect Christian nations from the pressing Ottoman Empire.  The drac– in Dracul originates from the Latin draco, which means dragon.  Despite, Vlad III’s cruelty, parts of Bulgaria remember him and his father as protectors of the Christian faith in Europe.  However, most who know of him remember him as a murderous tyrant.
It seems that Vlad II’s oath to the Order of the Dragon was half-hearted since he sent Vlad III and his brother Radu as hostages to the Ottoman court.  Vlad III grew a strong hatred for and mistrust of his father, his brother (who converted to Islam), the Hungarians, and the Ottoman Turks whom he was forced to live with.  Vlad III was put on the throne of Wallachia by the Turks in the 1440’s after a Hungarian regent murdered Vlad’s father and elder brother.  The Hungarians invaded Wallachia and Vlad was forced to flee.  Vlad led an army back into Wallachia in 1456, retaking his throne after killing his opposer in hand-to-hand combat.   Wallachia was in ruins upon his return, and, in order to turn the country’s economics around, Vlad ruled with an iron fist and many long sharpened steaks.
Throughout his reign, it is estimated that Vlad slaughtered between 40,000 and 100,000 people.  In 1462, Vlad surrounded his capitol city with 20,000 impaled men, women, and children.  When Ottoman Turks approached the city for battle, they were horrified upon entering the nightmarish Forest of the Impaled.  Shocked and fear-stricken, the Turkish soldiers quickly fled for their lives.

1499 German woodcut showing Dracule waide dini...

1499 German woodcut showing Dracule waide dining among the impaled corpses of his victims. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vlad considered impalement an art form.  He arranged the impaled to form unique patters and would alternate his method of impalement so that some victims were impaled upright, others upside down, and some through the side.  In order to make the deaths slower and more excruciating, Vlad insisted that the stakes be smoothed and lubricated to keep from damaging internal organs.    Nobles were often invited to dine with the king in the Forest of the Impaled just before being impaled themselves.  While impalement was Vlad’s punishment of choice, he also resorted to other gruesome methods of torture, such as boiling, mutilating, skinning, as well as, cooking his victims while still alive.  Perhaps most appalling of all, he was known to force mothers to eat their own roasted children.
The Turks finally mounted a successful invasion and Vlad fled to Hungary where he was framed by a former ally and placed under house arrest for ten years.  While in captivity, Vlad captured and impaled the rodents and birds, arranging them in unique patters like he did with his human victims.  He was eventually released and reinstated as king of Wallachia where he ruled for another eight years.  He was assassinated in 1476, decapitated, and buried in an unknown grave.

To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:


  • Mad Kings & Queens: History’s Most Famous Raving Royals  by Alison Rattle and Allison Vale
  •  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler

Maddest Medieval Monarch Week: Charles the Mad

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day three of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week brings us to a monarch of two names: Charles the Well-Beloved, a name her earned in his younger years, and Charles the Mad.

Article Written by Andrea Cefalo

Charles VI of France

Charles’ inherited the throne from his father at the age of eleven.  Too young to rule,

Charles VI de France, Charles VI of France

Charles VI ofFrance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

his unlces Philip of Burgundy, John of Berry, Louis of Anjou and Louis of Bourbon served as regents until Charles was twenty-one.  Feeling ill-advised and tired of watching his uncles squabble and squander the nation’s fortunes, Charles no longer sought the advice of his uncles.  Instead, he looked to his father’s former advisers to help him rule, a move which resulted in greater prosperity for France.  This earned Charles his first epithet, the well-beloved.

Français : Charles VI saisi de folie non loin ...

Painting of Charles attacking his own men in 1392 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1392, Charles experienced his first psychotic episode shortly after the attempted murder of his friend, Olivier de Clisson. Charles grew increasingly impatient as his troops traveled to Brittany in order to bring the attempted murderer to justice.  A leper grabbed the king’s horse and warned that he was being betrayed by his men.  When a page accidentally dropped his lance, creating a commotion, Charles went into a rage.  The king killed one of his knights and a few more of his men.  Once subdued, Charles slipped into a coma.

Charles suffered psychotic episodes off and on for the rest of his life.  In 1393, Charles could not remember his name, his wife, or that he was king.   He sometimes ran wildly through the hallways of his home, Hotel Saint-Pol, so that the entries had to be boarded to keep him from running like a madman through the streets of Paris.   During certain points in his life, Charles believed himself to be made of glass and went to great lengths to make sure that he would not shatter.  Though Charles had periods of lucidity, his illness kept him from being an effective ruler and his relatives fought fiercely for power leading to a civil war between the Burgundians and Armagnacs.

King Henry VI. Purchased by NPG in 1930. See s...

Charles VI’s grandson, King Henry VI of England, suffered from psychosis like his grandfather. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not surprisingly, Charles illness caused him to earn his second epithet, Charles the Mad.  Mental illness seemed to run strongly in the family.  Charles’ mother suffered a breakdown while he was young and Charles’ grandson, King Henry VI of England, suffered an episode very similar to Charles’ first bout.  While Henry VI was not violent, he did slip into a coma.  However, Henry’s coma lasted an unbelievable eighteen months.

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales

To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:


Maddest Medieval Monarch Week: Isabella of France

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day two of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week brings us to a monarch made legendary by literature and cinema, Isabella of France.

Article Written by Andrea Cefalo

Isabella “She-Wolf” of France

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II...

English: Isabella of France, wife of Edward II of England. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of us equate Isabella of France with the kind-hearted and lonely English princess from the movie Braveheart or the she-wolf of plays by Brecht and Marlowe.  Based on her life, it is easy to conclude that Isabella was lonely in her marriage to a bi-sexual English king. However, determining whether she was the she-wolf, as literature labeled her, or the sweetheart, as Hollywood made her, is not so easy.

Isabella was wedded at twelve to Edward II of England.  Edward, however, was in love with Piers Gaveston whom he openly showered with gifts. Isabella learned to tolerate Edward’s relationship, but some of the English barons never did. Four years into their marriage Gaveston was murdered.  Isabella consoled her grief-stricken husband and the two became closer.  They even had three children together, but in 1319, another man, Hugh Despenser the young, gained Edward’s affections. Despenser was ruthless, greedy, and insanely jealous.  For six years, Isabella’s power, influence, and income were reduced upon the advice of Despenser.

English: Illustration of the execution of Hugh...

English: Illustration of the execution of Hugh the Younger Despenser, from a manuscript of Froissart (Bibliotheque Nationale MS Fr. 2643, folio 197v) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Isabella visited her brother, King Charles IV of France in 1325, she met and fell in love with Roger Mortimer, a former English general who had since turned against the king and Despenser.  She and Mortimer raised an army, overthrew Edward, and tried Despenser for treason.  Despenser was hanged, drawn, and quartered.  Edward was imprisoned, tortured, and starved, but did not die until 1327.  It is rumored that he was killed under Isabella’s orders by a red-hot poker being inserted into his rectum.   Edward’s heart was placed in a silver coffin and given to Isabella.

Isabella served as regent for a short time until her son Edward III was old enough to take the throne.  Mortimer turned out to be every bit as greedy and ruthless as Despenser.  Edward III, with the support of English barons, arrested and executed Mortimer.  Isabella was imprisoned for two years in Windsor Castle, where she was rumored to have had a nervous breakdown after the loss of Mortimer.  Isabella was later cleared of any wrong-doing and lived a comfortable life.  Upon her death, she was entombed with Edward III’s heart, though buried next to Mortimer.

In literature and legend, Isabella is often remembered as a king-killer, but no one knows for sure who gave the orders for Edward II’s murder.  So was Isabella the she-wolf or simply a desperate woman trying to save England from a careless king?  No one really knows, but we can certainly speculate.

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales

To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:


Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week!

Many times history is more interesting than fiction if we just look in the right places.  Follow me as I venture into the lives of some of the most scandalous, most murderous, most insane monarchs of the Middle Ages.  Day one of Maddest Medieval Monarchs Week, brings us to a little-known monarch, Queen Joanna I of Naples.
Article Written by Andrea Cefalo

Joanna I of Naples

Queen Joanna I of Naples: Murderess, Madam, Madwoman

Queen Joanna I of Naples: Murderess, Madam, Madwoman

Power-hungry Joanna inherited the throne from her grandfather at an early age. Joanna knew she might have to share power with her cousin, and soon-to-be husband, Andrew of Hungary, who, through his lineage, had a strong claim to the throne, but the thought of sharing power enraged Joanna. She and her allies convinced the Church that she should rule alone and she was crowned on the orders of Pope Clement VI .

Murder of Andrew, Duke of Calabria, painted by Karl Briullov.

Murder of Andrew, Joanna I of Naples first husband, painted by Karl Briullov.

Not surprisingly, Joanna’s marriage to Andrew was not a happy one. Andrew was in constant fear for his safety.  Two attempts were made on his life while in Joanna’s court. The first attempt, a staged hunting accident, was foiled.   Andrew was not so lucky the second time around when a group of assassins strangled Andrew and threw him out of the window. Joanna’s disinterest in catching Andrew’s killer not only made her look guilty, it made her an enemy to the Vatican and the powerful Hungarian empire.  To this day, her guilt has never been proven, but she seems a likely suspect.

Medieval painting of reading nuns

Medieval painting of reading nuns

Joanna had a taste for money, as well as power.  To increase her wealth, she opened a brothel entitled “The Abbey” in 1347.  The brothel looked just like a monastery.  The women attended daily mass, abstained from work on Sundays, and served only the most elite Christians.  While it may seem that this façade was meant to disguise the base entertainments inside, it wasn’t.  The Abbey was widely known as a whorehouse.

King Charles III of Naples

King Charles III of Naples

In the end, Joanna made many enemies.  She landed on the wrong side of a papal dispute in 1380 when she backed the French anti-pope Clement VII against Urban VIPope Urban VI took her crown, imprisoned her, and gave her throne to her niece’s husband, Charles of Durazzo.  Charles had Joan suffocated with pillows to avenge Joanna’s suspected murder of her first husband, Andrew.  Her corpse was put on display in Naples and then dumped in a well.


Mad Kings and Queens:  History’s Most Famous Raving Royals by Alison Rattle and Allison Vale

Wikipedia Article of Joanna I of Naples: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_I_of_Naples

Article Written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s Fairytales

To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit:


Holiday Sale

shutterstock_11595145685% off the cover price.  The kindle version of The Fairytale Keeper is only 99 cents.

15% off the cover price.  The paperback version of The Fairytale Keeper is only $10.19.   Amazon sellers also offer new and used versions for as low a $2.30.

(Offers are done by Amazon and not under the control of the publisher.  Offer expires at the discretion of Amazon.  For a limited time only.)

Who would make the best Ivo?

The Countdown Begins

It’s hard to believe that the release for the second book in The Fairytale Keeper series is only eight months away.  If you didn’t know, the book has a tentative title, The Fairest of Them All.   At this point,  I am halfway done with writing and beginning work on revisions.  For me, this is the perfect time to start revising.  It’s quite fun to read parts of the book that I’d written months ago.  They feel so new. Thankfully, I am very pleased with the first chapter.  For those of you who know me personally, I am no good at keeping surprises.  I am absolutely dying to post the first chapter of The Fairest of Them All today!  But I think I will be a good little author and wait until after the entire book goes off for editing. For those of you who are dying to have a sneak peek into The Fairest of Them All, visit my Pinterest page, which holds clues as to what will happen in the next installment of The Fairytale Keeper series.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About the Cinderella Story

Written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper series

While Cinderella is one of the most widely known tales, here are a few facts about it that are not…

1.  From Russia to India and Vietnam to Scotland, nations from all over the world have their own traditional telling of the Cinderella story.  A few examples of titles are The Story of Tam and Cam (Vietnam), Baba Yaga (Russia), The Saddleslut (Greece),  Pepelyouga (Serbia), Ashey Pelt (Ireland), and Conkiajgharuna (Georgia).

2. Many Native American tribes fused the European Cinderella with their own legends to create unique versions of the tale.  For example, Mi’kmaq Native Americans combined the French Cinderella with their own legends to come up with a version called The Invisible One.  Some other Native American versions include The Turkey Herd and The Rough-Faced Girl.

 3.  The tale was first recorded in 9th century China by Tuan Che’ng-shih, but the tone of the tale suggests it was already a well-known story to its readers.  That makes the story at least 1,140 years old!

4.  The next recording didn’t come until over eight hundred years later when Charles Perrault of France published it in 1697.  This version is the one Americans are most familiar with. That’s probably because it is kinder than most other versions which result in the maiming or killing of the wicked stepsisters in the end.

5.  There are approximately 1,500 versions of the tale when one includes retellings, movies, musicals, operas, and picture books!





The Real Snow White: A 16th Century Countess?

Portrait of Margarete von Waldeck

Most of us associate the origins of Snow White with Willhelm and Jacob Grimm’s 19th century publication of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children’s and Household Tales) which is a volume of German folklore collected by the Grimm brothers and not actually composed by the two.  So where did this tale actually come from?   Is it really just the product of an unknown story-teller’s imagination or was this famous fair-faced maiden based on historical fact?   German scholar Eckhard Sander presumes in his book Schneewittchen: Marchen oder Wahrheit? (Snow White: Is It a Fairy Tale?) that the real Snow White was in fact Countess Margarete Von Waldeck.

Margarete was daughter to Count Phillip von Waldeck-Wildungen and step-daughter to Katherina of Hatzefeld, whom Margarete did not get along with.  At the age of sixteen, Margarete was sent away to Wildungen, Brussels where she met and fell in love with Phillip the II, who would later become king of Spain.   A marriage between the Spanish prince and German countess was seen as politically disadvantageous by many and Margarete’s untimely death all-too-conveniently ended the affair.

According to Sander, Margarete did not die of some unknown illness, but was poisoned by the Spanish secret police to keep her from marrying the future king.  However, her “wicked” stepmother couldn’t have been the culprit since she was dead before Margarete’s death.  While it is unlikely that the weapon of choice was an apple, poisoned apples were given out by a man living in Wildungen who didn’t want children stealing his fruit.  And as for the seven dwarves, Maragerete’s brother owned copper mines in Wildungen which employed children who worked twelve hour days.  The children grew crooked and crippled from the work. Their hair grayed prematurely and most were dead before the age of  twenty.  Thus, they looked much like the dwarves from the Brothers Grimm’s tale.  According to Sander, the many parts of the story from this particular region were told and retold until they became the tale that the Grimm’s brothers recorded and we now know as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

Article written by Andrea Cefalo, author of The Fairytale Keeper: a novel of corruption, devotion, and the origins of Grimm’s fairytales.  To follow Andrea Cefalo and hear more about The Fairytale Keeper series, please visit: