Tag Archives: Middle Ages

Math in the court of Emperor Frederick II

About Frederick II

Al-Kamil (right) and Frederick II signed a tre...

Frederick ruled the Holy Roman Empire on and off from 1220 to 1250.  As many of you know, my Medieval series,  The Fairytale Keeper, takes place during Frederick’s reign. Frederick is featured in the second novel in the series, The Fairest of All, which is what inspired me to do greater research on this remarkable man who one might argue could have inspired an early Renaissance if it weren’t for his constant battles with the Church.

Frederick II was a man of insatiable curiosity in a variety of subjects, including, but not limited to: physics, poetry, logic, linguistics, government, biology, mathematics, and zoology.  The plethora of intriguing facts about Frederick’s exploits in order to gain a better understanding of the world around him and that beyond him has lead me to break up one article on the Holy Roman Emperor into a half-dozen.  So hold onto your hats, Medieval enthusiasts, as we (rather briefly) explore the mathematical pursuits of Emperor Frederick II.  Links to the other articles that I’ve written about Frederick II can be found below.


Mathematical Pursuits

Not surprisingly, Frederick surrounded himself with the best and brightest mathematicians of his time.  As discussed in my previous articles, sultans of the east sent their best mathematicians to Frederick’s court.  Other members of his court, Michael Scot and John of Palermo, studied mathematics.  Leonard of Pisa, a man cited to contain “sovereign  possession of the whole mathematical knowledge of his own and every preceding generation,” communicated with the emperor, who took an active role in Leonard’s studies.   Based on their correspondences, we see that Frederick had a fundamental understanding of geometry.  Frederick applied his knowledge of geometry to his love of architecture, designing the towers of Capua.


“Frederick II (Holy Roman Emperor and German King).” Www.encyclopia.com. N.p., 2013. Web.

Haskins, Charles H. “Science at the Court of the Emperor Frederick II.” The American Historical Review 27.4 (1922): 669. Print.





The Fairytale Keeper Book Trailer!

I’m very proud to (finally) present The Official Fairytale Keeper Book Trailer.

I owe a great deal of gratitude to my very talented husband, Ken Morrill, who created this book trailer for me.

Can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of The Fairytale Keeper? Order it now @

Barnes and Noble LogoAmazon Logosmashwords1




Are you a fan of all things Medieval?  Love Grimm’s Fairy Tales?  For the latest and greatest on these topics and for up-to-date information on The Fairytale Keeper series Subscribe to our newsletter  or follow me @

facebook buttontwitter-red-webtreatsetcgoodreads-blackpinterest-logo1-300x300

The Real People in The Fairytale Keeper

medieval king

He reminds me of Conrad IV.

I love the Middle Ages, but, to be honest, most of my research time goes into my book.  I am learning more and more every day about the power players during the middle thirteenth century in the Holy Roman Empire.  I don’t recall learning much about the Holy Roman Empire when I was in school.  Most of the Medieval studies focused on England, France, Spain, and Italy.  All those kingdoms, duchies, counties, and ecclesiastical sees in central Europe just aren’t given much time.  As a former teacher, I understand that,  you can’t cover everything, and, in a way, I appreciate it.  Not having learned much about this area made me want to learn more, so I explore it every day.

I was thinking about all I’ve learned about the REAL people who I write in The Fairytale Keeper series, and I thought it would be fun for my readers to learn a little more of these fascinating people who are unknown to most of us.  I hope you enjoy what’s coming up, and that it makes you curious as to how it will all end up in The Fairytale Keeper series.

So now you know what my favorite time period in history is, what’s yours??



Can’t wait to get your hands on a copy of The Fairytale Keeper? Order it now @

smashwords logoAmazon LogoBarnes and Noble Logo






Are you a fan of all things Medieval?  Love Grimm’s Fairy Tales?  For the latest and greatest on these topics and for up-to-date information on The Fairytale Keeper series Subscribe to our newsletter  or follow me @

facebook buttonRed Twitter Buttongoodreads-blackPinterest Logo

Cleft Lip in the Middle Ages

I find out so many interesting Medieval tidbits doing the research for The Fairytale Keeper series.  Today, I want to share what I’ve learned and concluded based on my research on cleft lip in the Middle Ages.

cleft lip hare lipCleft Lip Defined

Approximately 1 in 700 children in the US are born with a cleft lip or palette. Cleft lip is a split in the upper lip that, in normal development, fuses together around the 35th day of fetal development.  A cleft palate is when the split also occurs in the roof of the mouth.

Cleft Lip in the Middle Ages

Cleft lip certainly occurred during The Middle Ages, but to what extent, we do not know.

Difficulty breast feeding is a common complication of cleft lip and palette.  One wonders how many children died as a result of their inability to feed correctly.  When a child with a cleft lip breast feeds, he can have trouble getting enough suction, milk can leak out the nose, and choking can occur.

Medieval Peasant Field WorkingThe majority of the Medieval population was poor and worked long hours in fields.  They didn’t have money to pay a wet nurse to drip feed a child who couldn’t latch on, and they wouldn’t have had the time to experiment with different methods of feeding.  Most people, during the time period, lived in small villages and never ventured 20 miles from home.  It seems a likely conclusion that most people would have never seen a cleft lip or palette during their lifetimes; therefore, it seems unlikely that a treatment for the deformity and its complication would have been widely-known.  But, perhaps, my speculations are wrong.

We do know that some people made it to adulthood with cleft lip because it’s documented that Arab physician, Albucasis used a different surgery method on adults than he did with children.

Medieval Treatment of Cleft Lip

Portrait of Arab Physician Abulcasis

We do see evidence of treatments for cleft lip in the Middle Ages. The following is an Anglo-Saxon treatment for cleft lip, referred to it as harelip,  mentioned in Bald’s Leechbook.  ‘For harelip: pound mastic very fine, add white of an egg and mix as you do vermilion, cut with a knife, sew securely with silk then anoint with the salve outside and insde before the silk rot.  If it pulls together, arrange it with the hand, anoint again immediately.’

As mentioned earlier, famous Medieval Muslim physician, Albucasis, and his fellow surgeons had more than one treatment for cleft lip.  They preferred cauterizing with gold to cutting with a scalpel when treating adults.  In the cases of young children, they realized that hot metal was too harsh and opted for surgery instead. The surgery involved making a small incision in the lip, placing a garlic clove in the gap, and leaving it for 15 hours. After removing the garlic, the gaps were sealed with a bandage that had been dipped in butter.

These, however, were not the first documented treatments.  In 390 BCE, a physician who was well-known for successfully mending cleft lips performed surgery on 18 year-old Wey Young-Chi in Nanking, China. The surgery was successful, and after his surgery, Wey Young-Chi joined the army.  He later became a governor.

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:


Star Crossed Lovers Week: Listen to the Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Listen to the Letters of Abelard and Heloise

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abelard

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abelard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must admit that I’ve become swept up into the great romance between Heloise and Abelard. And so, for day three of Star-Crossed Lovers Week, I am happy to link to the reading of their letters. So if you are as enamored by these love letters as I am, click the links below.  The first is a link to a theatrical reading of the letters.  The second is a clip from the movie Stealing Heaven, about the famous love affair.



All This Month: Love in the Middle Ages

Eloisa e abelardo framed

Eloisa e abelardo framed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rolling with the romance that February brings, this month’s posts will fall under the theme of “Love in the Middle Ages”.  Each week, I’ll take on a different topic.  Not only will I be writing about love, I’ll be spreading some, too.  Each week, every person who goes to and likes my official Facebook fan page will be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of The Fairytale Keeper.

So what is the topic for week one you ask??  Drum roll, please…Star-Crossed Lover’s Week!

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