Anne Elisabeth Stengl: Back to Goldstone Wood
With an almost magical ability pulled directly from the pages of her stories, Stengl’s debut novel Heartless completely won over critics and readers. Praised for her original imagination and
keen insight into the human condition, Stengl is primed to charm fans again as she returns to
her inventive world of fantasy and adventure. In Veiled Rose, Stengl expands upon her debut’s
Tolkien-esque sensibilities and gives fans more of the fascinating characters, vivid settings—and
menacing dragons—that they’ve come to savor.
Q: Why did you write Veiled Rose?
When I wrote Heartless, there was one character in particular who stood out to me and whom I had difficulty letting go. That was the cowardly Prince Lionheart who betrayed
the princess’s trust and gave her heart to the Dragon. This character, who is full of good intentions and fine excuses for his actions, must have a story of his own that we aren’t seeing. I
wrote Veiled Rose out of a desire to get to know Lionheart better. In the process, he has become a real, multifaceted person to me, full of honor and pride, strength and weakness. He is someone
we all relate to on some level, and we both despise and love him for it.
Q: Prince Lionheart only makes up part of the story. Where did the character of
Rose Red come from?
While I knew this book was going to be Lionheart’s, I also knew he'd need a foil, or rather,
a contrast. Someone whose traits were the opposite of his and threw him
into stark relief. I knew early on this character would need to be female and she would need
to be of the servant or even peasant class. But I felt that this character needed to be placed on a
level even lower still. She needed to be someone despised not just for her status but for her very
existence. So she became a “monster.” Someone so different from normal people—whether for
extreme beauty or extreme ugliness—that she must always hide her face.
Once Rose Red was established as Lionheart’s opposite, the rest of the story fell quickly into
place. I always enjoy writing fun and quirky personalities, but this is the first book I have written
that I can honestly say started entirely with the characters.
Q: Was writing Veiled Rose easier because you established a major character in
your previous novel?
Veiled Rose begins in a time before the events of Heartless, and continues on to overlap with
Heartless in significant ways. Those periods of overlap were the most difficult and interesting
to write. Many key scenes from Heartless will be found again in Veiled Rose but written from a
completely different perspective that sheds a whole new light on those particular events. Scenes
in Heartless that may have seemed simple and dreamy are revealed in Veiled Rose to be full of
unspoken danger and important decisions. It was a tough balance, but so very interesting! We
are always the heroes of our own stories, but we tend to forget that those around us are also the
heroes of theirs! Veiled Rose illustrates that truth in fun and enlightening ways. I think those who
read Veiled Rose will want to go back and reread Heartless in order to see those scenes with new
Q: What is the underlying theme of Veiled Rose?
This story asks the question: “What is a monster?” It then goes on to explore that question on
various levels. Is a monster made up of physical ugliness? Is it a malevolence of spirit? Is a
monster driven by power or by fear? In this book, both of my main characters are faced with
their own inner monster in different forms. What lies behind the veils of their surface lives? A
beauty or a beast? A rose or a thorn?
All of us have the potential to be monsters in so many subtle ways. But through Christ we are
offered the chance to become “more than conquerors,” to vanquish the foe of our own sin
nature. But when He offers his aid, we must choose Him or live with the consequences of our