Sabrina Benulis' debut novel, Archon, doesn't release until January, but once we heard about this paranormal series starter we knew we had to find out more. So RT's Morgan caught up with Benulis at Comic Con in order to get some inside information about Archon which is set in a Vatican secret enclave and involves a secret prophecy that a "blood head" (aka red head) will possess the spirit of a dead angel to wreck havoc on earth.
Morgan Doremus: Since Archon is your debut novel, I am very interested in how you got started writing.
Sabrina Benulis: In college I wrote for myself. I was a psych major and was disenchanted so switched to English. I took a creative writing course and turned in a short story. When I got it back, it had a message from the professor “See me after class”. I was worried I had done something wrong, but it turns out that they thought it was really good. That was the first time I ever considered writing professionally. When I was getting ready to choose a grad school, I realized all I wanted to do was write, so I went to Seton Hill and their program for genre fiction. Archon was actually my thesis.
Morgan: Your story’s protagonist, Angela Mathers, is a very unusual character. I think the biggest surprise about the 18-year-old is her suicidal tendencies. Actually they are more than just tendencies — she has tried to commit suicide in every way imaginable (hanging, fire, shooting).
Sabrina: Angela has proven already to be pretty controversial. But what readers have to understand is that she has been damaged by her harsh past, she doesn’t think of things like other people do. The angels that she sees in her dreams are real to her and she wants to be with them, so in her mind the only way to do that is to die.
Morgan: Angela is a “blood head” and therefore has the potential to fulfill the Vatican’s prophecy and become, essentially, the anti-Christ. This is a pretty big decision that she needs to make.
Sabrina: Yeah, I think the fact that she could either become the dark messiah or reject her destiny is what makes such great conflict in the story. At her core, Angela is a good person, but she has a dark side, like everyone. So, it could really go either way.
Morgan: Throughout the story, you really show Angela’s strength. Where other characters might not be able to reject their destinies, if they decided to, Angela would be able to stand up to anything and everything she encounters — even fate.
Sabrina: In fantasy books women can often be portrayed as passive and weak. I didn’t want this for Angela. I instinctively knew she would be a strong character — like instead of being a princess, she would be more like a prince.
Morgan: Because of Angela’s age, you really straddle the Young Adult/adult fiction categories.
Sabrina: She is eighteen and in her Freshman year at the Academy, so technically she is an adult. But, I wasn’t thinking about marketing when I wrote the story.
Morgan: I think your book will appeal to teens. Do you worry about this since Archon has quite a lot of violence?
Sabrina: I think younger readers can deal with more than we give them credit for. A lot changed with the The Hunger Games, but even before this, I was reading Lord of the Rings when I was 14 or 15. Talk about a dense read.
Morgan: Let’s talk a bit about the setting of your novel. You placed Angela’s college, the Academy, in a fictional town of Luz where the supernatural is welcome, but technology is not.
Sabrina: I really wanted a dark, gothic atmosphere for the novel. And by not having any electricity or lights, the candles helped create an old world feel. Also, I wanted an enclosed city, so I have Luz controlled by the Vatican. Not everyone is welcome.
Morgan: Speaking of the Vatican, this is just one of the many religious influences that readers will see.
Sabrina: My story has Judeo-Christian influences as well as Islamic mythology and other religions, as well. I wanted to combine world religions to create a unique world. Archon is not religious, but instead I used these myths to propel the plot and characters.
Morgan: Your secondary characters are very diverse. You have a fallen angel, a witch, a Jinn and even the Devil. Readers might start out thinking they know who these characters are, but then something happens and you realize you never really knew who they were in the first place.
Sabrina: Life is not black and white, and I wanted to represent that with my characters. While Angela is straightforward and honest about who she is, the rest of the characters have things to hide. It is like they are wearing masks and what you see is something entirely different from what they are.
While we anticipate the release of Archon, this young author is already on her second novel. Can't wait for January 2012? For more paranormal titles, check out our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Page!