CINDER ALLIA by Karen Ullo
Cinder Allia has spent eight years living under her stepmother’s brutal thumb, wrongly punished for having caused her mother’s death. She lives for the day when the prince will grant her justice; but her fairy godmother shatters her hope with the news that the prince has died in battle. Allia escapes in search of her own happy ending, but her journey draws her into the turbulent waters of war and politics in a kingdom where the prince’s death has left chaos and division. Cinder Allia turns a traditional fairy tale upside down and weaves it into an epic filled with espionage, treason, magic, and romance. What happens when the damsel in distress must save not only herself, but her kingdom? What price is she willing to pay for justice? And can a woman who has lost her prince ever find true love? Surrounded by a cast that includes gallant knights, turncoat revolutionaries, a crippled prince who lives in hiding, a priest who is also a spy, and the man whose love Allia longs for most—her father—Cinder Allia is an unforgettable story about hope, courage, and the healing power of pain.
Selected Excerpts from Cinder Allia
“Allia,” the creature breathed, its timbre of birdsong and silver bells dampened by its grief. “Weep with me. Your prince is dead.”
“My prince? What prince would ever deign to call himself mine?” She tugged without thinking at the skirt of her rough gray kirtle. She had washed it just that morning in the stream. It clung to her, still stained with ash.
The creature placed its tiny golden hands upon the maiden’s eyes. “The one whose body you see lying with the arrow through his breast.”
As soon as the door to the queen’s apartments shut behind them, Prince Lennard turned to face his charge. “My mother has it in mind that I should show you a lot of stuffy portraits and gilded frescoes. Is that what you want to see?”
The glint in his eye made her dizzy, but Allia managed to answer, “No.”
“Good. What, then?”
“Well, to begin… Your Highness, may I see your sword?”
He smiled with almost paternal pride as he drew the blade. The steel gleamed more brightly than the diamond hilt in the sunlit hall. “I call her Griffin’s Claw.”
Allia dared to trace a finger across its shining beauty. “Lagunde steel,” she said, and the prince’s eyes widened with respect. “My father has one, but not as fine as this. This wouldn’t be one of Master Rellan’s?”
“It is. You know his work?”
“Only by reputation. I’ve never seen one before. Why do you call her Griffin’s Claw?”
“Because people call me the Lion, but I’d rather be able to fly.” He winked, and a thrill quivered down Allia’s spine.
“May I hold it?”
Prince Lennard offered her the glittering hilt. Her fingers closed with reverence.
Allia tightened her grip on the sword. Her scabbed palms burned with the wounds of hate while her heart drummed against the cross-shaped scar of love. No matter which she chose, it would leave her bleeding.
In the shadow of the hazel tree, nothing but grief would ever harm her—though grief left more enduring scars than any sword. But the rain that dribbled down her cheeks would sustain the grass and the doves and the flowers for ages yet to come. In the shadow of the hazel tree, Allia knew that grief had been given to her to nourish her joy.
Karen Ullo is the author of the novels Jennifer the Damned (Wiseblood Books 2015) and Cinder Allia. She is a regular contributor to Dappled Things journal and also writes recipes for Catholicmom.com. She holds an MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California. She is also a classically trained soprano who works as the music director at a church in Baton Rouge, LA, where she lives with her husband and two young sons.