Season TWO & a New Podcast Episode: Board Book Saint Biographies with author Cassie Herrington

In today’s episode, I speak with author Cassie Herrington. You’ll hear about:

  • Now available for pre-order: Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server
  • Why pre-orders matter
  • How saint stories can nourish the souls of the littlest children
  • Celebrating liturgical feasts
  • How respecting children’s freedom shares God’s love
  • giveaway of the Little Saint Stories board book: John Paul II
  • And more!

**Affiliate disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links where I earn a little money from your purchase at no cost to you. Thanks for helping an author out! 🙂

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server is available for Pre-Order!

Filled with relatable foibles and Arthur’s fierce desire to serve God, Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server is a great way to share faith with your kiddos! Pre-order now at https://amzn.to/3C2ao42.

Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server comes out September 2022

Pre-ordering books is a fantastic way to support an author or a book, as all pre-order sales help boost the book well into the future with search engine algorithms. If you’re thinking of buying this book, don’t wait, and order some as Christmas gifts while you’re at it!

Your purchase will go farther by helping others find the book now and in the future. Post-publication sells help as well, but pre-orders are SUPER POWERFUL! Thanks so much for your support, and I wish you laughs and hugs and happy reading!

Want to be interviewed?

If you would like to be interviewed on the Catholic Kidlit podcast, if you have some insight into Catholic children’s books, if you are an author/editor, you can apply at Catholic Kidlit dot com or send me a message through the contact form.

Now for the Interview with Author Cassie Herrington

Theresa Kiser: Today. We are here with Cassie Herrington, who is the producer of the Little Saint Stories board book series, which was launched with a Kickstarter campaign quite recently. So these are board books all about saints.

Cassie, thank you for coming on the show. As a fellow board book writer, I would love to hear about your creation of these books for our littlest readers.

So, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and, and the series that you’ve launched?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be on with you. So yeah, like you said, I kind of recently, so in the past year and a half came out with six books and their board books, and that was really important to me, for them to be board books.

And I’ll talk about that in just a minute. I am from Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’m a youth minister full time, always trying to spread Jesus with people, whether it’s in books for little ones or talking to high schoolers. And it wasn’t until COVID that I really started to sit down and feel the Lord pulling my heart to start writing books.

And here we are. So yeah, very excited to be sharing Jesus with the littlest and cutest of the saints among us and have books that are made for their tiny little chubby hands.

Theresa Kiser: We have board books that are shredded to pieces, but they, they last as long as they can. It’s because they’re well loved.

So you’ve poured love into these books about the saints themselves. So which saints do you have in your series so far and how are they presented for babies?

And you said that there’s a–I have so many questions. You said there’s a reason that you wanted them to be board books for these little ones.

So why did you write specifically for our youngest little people?

Cassie Herrington: Great question. So the Saint set I have currently in my first set of books, cuz I did it in kind of two sets. I had St. Joseph. It was the year of St. Joseph last year when I wrote it. St. Francis of Assisi, another beloved Saint, and St. Germaine, who’s not super well known.

And then in my second set, I did: Mother Teresa, St. Theresa Lisieux, and St. John Paul II.

So those are the saints I have so far. I have some that I’m thinking about doing next, but always open to suggestions if you have any.

And then, yeah, so the reason for the board books: I always you know, I grew up being like a babysitter and a nanny and I always was around little kids.

I’m not a mom yet, but hope to be someday. And I always thought, “Man, these kids memorize these books from such a young age and wouldn’t it be great if they were memorizing things about their faith and starting to learn at a really young age.” And then I also just remember sitting in the pews as kind of an older kid thinking, “Man, like, you know, that kid’s playing with trucks and whatever,” which is great, you know, if they’re not old enough to pay attention, then sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, but how cool it be if it were toys and books that were elevating their hearts towards worship at such a young age. And so it was always something in the back of my mind that I just wish there was more of a market for Catholic toys and Catholic books, which now we kind of see blossoming, which is amazing.

And so having, or being able to be a part of that is really cool. And the board books, I kind of thought, you know, when kids are reading books in Mass, it’s not always quiet, right? Like when they’re turning the paper pages or, you know, flopping it all around. And so board books are not only easier for their fingers to turn at that age when they really are not expected to kind of still and do much with the Mass yet.

But it’s also a lot quieter. So if they’re sitting there, they can independently turn those pages and they’re not, you know, wrestling papers and maybe disrupting the family that’s sitting next to them or whatever it is.

Theresa Kiser: That is so true. And I think that memorization is kind of underrated because it really can stick with you.

I mean, we have memorized tons of fun, secular books: Yellow Copter, Cat in the Hat, all of these… But we had a, a priest who catechized my group when I was going through school and he taught us to say, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” he would say that, and we would respond “and do not lean on your own understanding.”

And then we’d go back and forth: “in all your ways, acknowledge Him. And He will direct your paths” and years, and years and years later, I remember that. And it’s so interesting that these words that children memorize can stay on their hearts and really shape them. And for the parents too, if there’s something worthy in the picture books that parent might be reading that over and over and over again so there’s a lot of time to think about it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
and He will direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

So how are these Saint stories presented to the child? What kind of words and pictures will a parent and child encounter in these board books?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. So I tried really hard to kind of narrow down the story of these saints. I mean, these saints led such beautiful lives and they’re saints for good reasons.

But you can’t fit everything onto 12 pages. So taking just what I thought was really the important aspects of why that Saint is unique and also the things that maybe are relatable for whether it’s the parent or maybe like the child once they start to grow up. So, you know, all of the saints led holy lives.

That’s important. That’s good to know. But you know, some things that I highlighted like St. Therese, she lost her mom growing up. Unfortunately, that’s something some of these kids will relate to or, you know, Mother Teresa, she went on mission trips. Maybe that’s something that kids have all older siblings or their parents went on mission trips and things like that.

And so I just tried to grab aspects that made these saints unique, right? Cuz none of them are cookie cutter saints. They’re all very beautifully themselves. And then put it in a way. Kids can understand, which is sometimes difficult because, you know, how do you talk about certain big topics about, you know, all these different things that happen in the world and that these saints have experienced in little people terms.

So it took a lot of, you know, using a thesaurus, a lot of working with my editor but I think that, yeah, I found a way to kind of portray these saints in a way that’s graspable for little kids. And it’s definitely a good stepping point. You know, it doesn’t provide all the information. You know, maybe later on I’ll do books for older kids that kind of add on.

And as far as the pictures, I really worked with my illustrator. It was easier with the more modern saint, right, like John Paul II, and Mother Teresa, because we have pictures of them. But for specifically St. Joseph, you know, I wanted him to look accurate, right. Like ethnically accurate and just try to like portray them in a way that wasn’t stoic and didn’t look like a Saint that existed a thousand years ago.

Or for some of ’em, even only a couple hundred years ago, but someone who looked just like these kids and yeah, it was just really like reachable and graspable for ’em.

That’s great.

Theresa Kiser: It’s, it’s interesting. I mean, even with, with St. John Paul II, that’s up to less than less than 20 years ago. So it’s really recent. I mean, I’m not even, I’m sure it’s even more recent than that.

But I will say about board books. It’s interesting that you’re talking about these things that children can relate to, especially with St. Therese. I mean, St. Therese lost her mom when she was four, generally board books are seen as written for zero to three year olds. The fact is, especially in families, when you have a large number of children and when you have the mass bag, those children will be seeing those books for many years.

And with such a short amount of time– number of pages and words–you have a chance to kind of strike the heart of that child in multiple different ways. So I really like that approach that you’ve taken. Can you give us insight into one of the themes or messages? That might be one of the takeaways from one of your books?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. Each of the saints has a little theme or goal for the reader of how to grow in their relationship with God.

And so one of my favorites, it was actually the first book that I wrote is about Saint Germaine and she’s now super popular, but she’s known for trusting the Lord with everything that she had.

And so definitely throughout the story, you kind of see how Germaine left her sheep an awful lot for being a shepherd, but she trusted that God would keep the wolves away and sure enough, He did. And so she went and she left for good reason. She left to go to Mass every day.

So at the end of that book it kind of teaches, you know, if we trust in God, then he will provide. And so that’s probably one of my favorites is learning to trust like Germaine.

Theresa Kiser: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

Cassie Herrington: Yeah, there you go.

Theresa Kiser: I love that that came back around.

So let’s dive into to one of these stories specifically, let’s talk about John Paul a second, since he is so, so recent and such a beautiful example for us. So what do you have to share about him in your Little Saint story?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah, so St. John Paul II is by far my favorite saint. And so it was really hard to fit all of the things that I loved into just 12 pages.

So a couple of my favorite things is I was able to highlight his love for skiing and hiking. And there’s a little picture of him skiing down a snowy mountain, which I think is something that, I mean, I’m from Michigan, I’m from the north. The snow is something that, you know, is definitely relatable.

I talked about him acting in his own plays and doing theater and things like that. And so just showing super multidimensional pieces to his character and who he was. He wasn’t just someone who sat in a church and prayed all day. That’s something that I really appreciate about St. John Paul II.

And he loved the youth. Like he loved kids and young people and so it’s very fitting, right, that one of my first books would be about him. And so just being able to share that with the kids, you know, like this saint loves you in such a special way. And so, yeah, that was really cool.

There’s so many pictures that we see of St. John Paul II holding babies and little ones. And so being able to incorporate an image like that into the book so that maybe the kids can be like, wow, that looks like me. You know, that looks like St. John Paul II is holding me. So that would be like, my dream is to find a little girl who looks like the one in the book and, you know, see that connection made.

Theresa Kiser: When you were putting these books together and presenting them in your youth ministry, do you have any tips for parents on how to present the books to their children or to catechesis classes if they’re leading them?

Cassie Herrington: Oh yeah. That’s a great question. Hmm. I mean, I would say the easiest answer is start young, right?

Like start when they definitely don’t even understand what you are reading to them. I would say that’s probably the easiest answer, but for those who might have kind of older kids, Honestly, I think the best way is to let them explore them on their own at first.

Maybe this is just my experience, but sometimes kids reading a new book is not what they want. If they just wanna hear about the Little Blue Tractor, then that’s all they wanna hear. Right. Or maybe, you know, it’s another one of their favorite books, you know, they’re not willing to go to a different one, but just setting them out for them to look and for them to get familiar and have curiosity kind of grow in their heart on their own is really something that I feel like might break into some of those kids who, you know, have the same three books that they love to read over and over again.

Theresa Kiser: Yeah, I like that too because it’s making it available. It’s not forcing. Force feeding the faith is not really great. That’s not really the way to share it because God presents his love to us for us to accept or reject freely. And so he respects that freedom.

And when we respect the freedom of our children, that’s how we can model God’s love. And he also though shows the beauty of what he has to offer of the love that he is.

And we can provide our children with resources that share that beauty. That’s just the most beautiful way to attract a soul is through beauty. I like your approach of just respecting what interests the children and making it available to them to explore on their timeline. I think that’s beautiful.

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. And sometimes even making it like a celebration! I make really big deals out of random holidays or random celebrations. So saint parties are one of my favorite things, you know, like I’ll bake a cake for whatever Saint it is that we’re celebrating that day.

And so, you know, if you have catechesis on October 1st, well, let’s do a Saint Therese party. Let’s do, you know, a craft that has to do with roses or little flowers and let’s read her book because it’s the day that we celebrate her. And make it almost like a birthday party for the saints.

And that’s a fun way to incorporate kids and get them excited and really interested in different aspects of the Catholic faith is, you know, just make it exciting, make it like a birthday party, a Feast day party.

Theresa Kiser: And that’s true. We have a lot of Feasts to celebrate, so let’s take advantage! Let’s enjoy it!

That’s great. So you say you have more books in the, in the works potentially?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. Yep. Haven’t quite decided which ones are coming next, but there definitely are some that are coming up.

Theresa Kiser: And where can people find out more about the books, the Little Saint Stories and what you might have coming down the pipeline?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah. So the best way to find the books is going to be littlesaintstories.com and then the best way to follow along with what might be coming up or some other projects that I have going on would be on Instagram @littleSaintstories.

So pretty simple, just Little Saint Stories anywhere should be able to find me.

Theresa Kiser: Cassie has generously offered to share a copy of the St. John Paul II board book with a listener. We are going to be hosting a giveaway. So if you can look in the show notes, if you’re interested in winning one of these board books from her collection then check that out and share that around so we can get the word out.

a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Is there any other message that you wanna leave with our listeners today?

Cassie Herrington: Yeah, you know, I recently heard a saying called, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist.” And so it’s a way of like saying goodbye and saying like, I might never see these listeners face to face, but as a universal church, when we come together in the Eucharist, in our individual churches or in our homes, like, I’ll see you in the Eucharist.

And I like to think, you know, we see all of these saints that we read about in the Eucharist too. So what I just wanna say to all the listeners is I’ll see you in the Eucharist.

Theresa Kiser: Thank you so much, Cassie. This is beautiful. Well, I’ll see you in the Eucharist and thank you so much for being on the show.

Cassie Harrington: Yeah. Thanks so much for having me.

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

The best way to support the Catholic kidlit creator you heard from today is to buy their books, leave reviews, and spread the word on social media and in person.

If you want to write meaningful children’s books with a Catholic heart, check out the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club at CatholicKidlit.com. 

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

Which saint do you want to share with your little ones?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!

Non-Didactic Chastity in Teen Fiction with Author Carolyn Astfalk

In today’s episode, I speak with author Carolyn Astfalk. You’ll hear about:

  • Congratulations to Ariana, our Liturgical Colors giveaway winner
  • Ending of Season 1 of the Catholic Kidlit Podcast – Thanks for joining me!
  • Book launch updates for Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server and Seven Gifts of Baptism
  • Just a little longer to join the CKWC for 2022
  • How the true story of lost treasure in Pennsylvania inspired a teen romance author
  • How Catholic themes of chastity tie in with lost treasure
  • How fiction creates a launching pad for important conversation and big choices
  • A giveaway of the Catholic teen anthology, Treasures: Invisible and Invisible
  • And more!

**Affiliate disclaimer: Some links may be affiliate links where I earn a little money from your purchase at no cost to you. Thanks for helping an author out! 🙂

Congratulations to Our Winners!

Huge congratulations to Ariana, our winner of my board book, A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors! Thanks for participating, Ariana!

Liturgical Colors and God’s love for babies!A Little Catholic’s Book of Liturgical Colors

Today on the show, we are speaking with an author of a Catholic book on the upper age end of kidlit, young adult. Her book Rightfully Ours came out in 2017 and I wanted to highlight it this season because it is important that we don’t forget our teen readers, usually voracious readers, if they are given books that they actually want to read.

So I’m very much looking forward to sharing our interview with you today. I also wanted to congratulate the winner of our Liturgical Colors, giveaway. Ariana, thank you for participating in our giveaway.

Today’s Giveaway

If you want to win a book, we have one more giveaway this season that is today at the end of this show, it is a Catholic Teen Books anthology that you’ll hear more about from Carolyn Astfalk.

Official Ending of Season 1 – Thank you for joining me!

I said that this is the last giveaway of the season, because this is the last regularly scheduled episode of the season. I may have some bonus episodes coming out later this year. But we’ll take a break after this episode. So make sure that you have subscribed to the show if you want to know when we’re coming back with some more interviews.

Catholic Kidlit Writers Club

There’s still time to join the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club until the end of February. We have a small group going there and I’m just excited that we’re together and we can lean on each other. It’s one of those things where you get out, what you put in. I have a feeling that in the group some people will use it more than others. But I’m just glad that we have a space where we’re starting to exist together. 

CWG Conference – February 11

Are you attending this year’s online conference with the Catholic Writers Guild? I will be speaking there along with other Catholic writers on the weekend of February 11th. My talk is all about, can you guess? Catholic children’s literature: writing it, getting it published, et cetera. So join me there. And and you can meet a bunch of other Catholic writers. There are also pitch sessions. If you want to pitch your book to Catholic publishers. 

Second Annual Writing Contest! Participate for free this Lent

Then this spring during Lent, I will be hosting a free kidlit writing contest. This will be our second writing contest on my blog at www.TheresaKiser.com. Take the writing challenge to try your hand at writing a very short 200-word or less story on a surprise topic that I will reveal on the blog.

Prizes will include books and critiques, and of course the comradery and fun of joining in on the challenge. So join me there. It’s all free. It’s all for fun. And it’s to celebrate Catholic kidlit. 

Book Launch Updates

Finally, an update on my books that are coming out this year. If you listened to the last episode, you have heard about the supply chain disruptions that have occurred in the publishing industry.

And they have come around and impacted my book launch. So Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server, which was originally scheduled for spring will be coming out in the Fall of this year which I’m very excited about. It gives us kind of more time to prepare and keep the suspense, but just stay tuned. I know if you were super eager for that just stay tuned on the blog and my website, because I will be revealing when the pre-order link will go up and I’ll be doing a cover reveal there.

I just got the proof back of what the inside is going to look like. And that was just a very exciting moment. It’s just all coming together. 

And then Seven Gifts of Baptism is coming out this year, too. It was originally going to be in the spring and it’s looked like it’s pushed back at least until late spring or early summer.

I don’t have a firm date on that yet. But just stay tuned because those are both books that I think can really just uplift some of our kids. So I’m looking forward to them being out. And I would love for you to join me on that adventure with those books. 

Want to be interviewed?

If you would like to be interviewed on the Catholic Kidlit podcast, if you have some insight into Catholic children’s books, if you are an author/editor, you can apply at Catholic Kidlit dot com or send me a message through the contact form.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our interviewee, Carolyn Astfalk. Here’s the interview and enjoy the show.

Now for the Interview with Author Carolyn Astfalk

Theresa Kiser: What got you into writing books and which book are you highlighting today? Which are you most excited about? 

Carolyn Astfalk: Well, I kind of got into it by accident just by doing a National Novel Writing Month and then kind of getting bitten by a writing bug. The book I’d most like to focus on is more a young adult book than my others.

And it’s called Rightfully Ours. It’s a coming of age story that is chastity themed actually. 

Theresa Kiser: It can be so impactful to read a novel like that at that age. I was blessed to read Carmen Marcoux’s Arms of Love when I was a teenager and it really impacted my whole view of romance.

So tell us a little bit about this book and its chastity focus. 

Carolyn Astfalk: Well, like I said, I started it during National Novel Writing Month and I really didn’t know what I was going to write. Just that I wanted to accept this challenge to write 50,000 words during the month of November. I looked for an idea and found a newspaper clipping.

It probably was an online newspaper clipping, but it was about some lost treasure in Pennsylvania. I still see news stories about it every so many months and it’ll pop up again. There was gold traveling to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia during the battle of Gettysburg.

At some point they lost track of the men transporting the gold. The gold disappeared; the men were dead. It was just a mystery. They still don’t know exactly where this gold is, but there are active treasure hunters looking mostly in Northwestern, Pennsylvania, and then where my book is set is up in Williamsport, which is more central and Northern Pennsylvania.

So I just had this glimmer of idea and just started writing. And I really didn’t set out necessarily to write a romance, but that’s what it ended up being. And I hadn’t read romance heavily. So it was kind of an interesting thing. And after that, I did start to, so I could learn more about the genre and the conventions of it.

But that was sort of what was on my heart to write and what my other books ended up being: mostly contemporary Catholic romances. 

Catholic Author Carolyn Astfalk

Experienced Author of Contemporary Romance

Theresa Kiser: So your other books are mainly for adults or for teens? Was this your first teen book or… what’s the age group for all your books? 

Carolyn Astfalk: So for my other novels, there are four other full-length novels. 

They’re geared mainly towards adults. Now there’s nothing in them that I don’t think older teens can’t read. It’s just mature subject matter. But there are no explicit scenes of any kind or foul language or anything like that. But this particular book is geared more toward young adults because the main characters are teenagers.

And so it’s more appealing, you know, to that audience, as well as to people that like to read coming of age stories. 

Treasure Hunt

Theresa Kiser: That’s great. I am one of those people who likes to read coming of age stories. So these are teenagers who go on a treasure hunt?

Carolyn Astfalk: They do that. It’s kind of an accidental treasure hunt.

There’s a young girl, Rebecca. This young man, Paul comes actually to live on their property. His father has been deployed; he’s with his older brother who’s come to the area to take a job in the fracking industry where they’re mining natural gas. And they build a friendship and notice some kind of obstacles along the way. And a friendship grows into real affection for each other.

But they also at the same time have discovered what they think could be gold. And so that’s a kind of a parallel storyline, although it kind of comes together with a treasure that they’re discovering in the love between them and the treasure that there’s the physical treasure under the earth that could be there. Their dilemma is how you take things that are rightfully yours or not yours to take. And whether that means in a relationship being selfish or truly loving, or that means actual things that don’t belong to us, you know, objects, and how we treat them and how we respect others. 

Theresa Kiser: Oh, that’s great. I love that. That’s such a thematic tie in between the internal and the external conflicts. I’m excited to see how they would resolve that and what they would decide for each of those things.

Carolyn Astfalk: Oh, it’s funny. When I write a lot of that, I think, was subconscious. After I completed the novel, I’m rereading and that all occurred to me like, “oh, wait, that resonates with this.” And it’s, it’s really amazing how your subconscious and the Holy Spirit and everything works together. And sometimes subtle things in there that you didn’t intentionally put in there, really ring true. 

How the Book Came About

Theresa Kiser: When did this book come out?

Carolyn Astfalk: This came out in 2017. Yep. That’s right. April, 2017. And started writing it in that National Novel Writing Month in 2010. It was the first thing I had written and it took those seven years.

So I did a couple other books. Then I came back to that one with a little more experience and was able to rewrite it so that it was a more cohesive, better written story. 

Theresa Kiser: That is awesome. Yeah, you’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but National Novel Writing Month for people who haven’t heard of it, it is during the month of November. You have 30 days to write 50,000 words. And people from all around the country write down their stories on their computers. 

People meet up in cafes and try to write as many words as they can. They have Word Wars to try to get out words. And it’s a really fun way to, to write stories. Another young adult novel that was drafted during NaNoWriMo was Cinder, that kind of dystopian Cinderella adaptation.

I know there are several others, so it’s really cool to hear that that’s where your story was born. Once you came back to it, what was that journey like? How did you get it published? 

Carolyn Astfalk: Well, the story itself still stood on its own pretty well. It was all the mechanics of writing that I had learned along the way that I need to improve, whether it was dialogue or “showing and not telling” and all those little details that make it a much more enjoyable book to read. 

And by that time, I had published one book with Full Quiver Publishing, and I had had another one that I independently published and I went back to her with Rightfully Ours. And so she accepted that one and that was where that was published.

So I’ve kind of gone back and forth between taking books to Full Quiver. And then as I’ve become more experienced with doing my own, just doing it that way too and independently publishing. 

Theresa Kiser: That’s great. There’s so much to learn. One track informs the other track and vice versa. So that is awesome. 

Non-Didactic Chastity Themes

One of the challenges with writing for teens, especially with a kind of hot button topic, like chastity is how to share that message without preaching or moralizing. So what approach have you taken towards that? How does your story achieve that? 

Carolyn Astfalk: I think the most important thing is the story comes first.

I don’t want to create a story to serve some message I have to get out. I’d rather have the characters come alive in my imagination, and then they just play out whatever their dilemmas are. So they tend to be, I think, which are more interesting, very flawed characters or even mildly flawed, but certainly not perfect people so that we can all relate to them.

Besides that you also have the drama of their redemption, their self-discovery and improvement and that kind of thing. 

So the only time to have someone preaching in a book is if they’re actually a preacher. So you have a priest delivering a homily in a snippet…? Okay, well, he’s legit allowed to preach, but more often than not your other characters, aren’t gonna be preaching. If they are, it’s not going to come across well to the other characters, let alone the readers. 

So I just try to make it as real as possible in my imagination. Like: how would this play out in a conversation? How do people speak to each other? What does this character have to say to someone else in the context of their relationship? 

So in Rightfully Ours, some of the messages that are about the truth of chastity and what the church teaches come from the character Paul’s older brother who has his own experiences that he’s lived and regrets what he has. And he’s able to speak to genuinely to his brother in the absence of their father. Or from Rachel’s parents, who are trying to instruct her and through the way they live their lives and what they’ve brought her up to believe. So I think the more natural it is and the more it’s serving the story and not a message that the better it comes across.

The Value of Story

Theresa Kiser: I feel like that is the value of a story to bring a theme to the front of the mind… it’s that you don’t have to take it like a message. You can just explore the question through someone else’s eyes. Then the reader has time to think about, well, what do I want? 

Carolyn Astfalk: Right. And it’s a great for conversation too. I’m part of a group called Catholic Teen Books where some authors work cooperatively. And one of the things that we always share is that stories are a great way to open conversations too, because it’s kind of uncomfortable to talk directly about a subject, but to talk indirectly about fictional people in their problems is a great way to talk about things that are really important.

You get that little bit of distance. You build empathy by reading it, but you also have a distance because you’re not talking about yourself. You’re talking about Paul and Rachel and their circumstances. 

Theresa Kiser: So with your book having been out, have you heard about any of these conversations that families are having at home based on reading your book?

Carolyn Astfalk: Some of my favorite couple of reviews are when people say, “boy, I wish I had had this book when I was a teenager.” Because like you said, when you’re reading at that age, some stories are very impactful. And I read a few romances at that age, but they were secular. There are clean romances, but I never felt like they fit with what my worldview was developing to be and how I was being raised.

And so whether it’s for young people or adults, I think while there’s a place for books that really transport you and allow you to see totally different experiences, there’s also a place for you to be able to identify with a character and even their practice of their faith. 

So I read a lot of Christian fiction for Evangelicals that I love very much. It’s also, I really enjoy reading something that’s happened to where the characters do the things and practice their faith the way I do. 

And so I think for teens to, to see a Catholic who’s struggling to develop their own faith or make it a coming of age story, they’re really taking those values and making them their own for the first time. “I’m not just what my parents told me to do, what I was taught at school or whatever, but here’s what I believe. And here’s why, and this is how I’m going to behave accordingly.”

To see that and see it reflected with subtle Catholic nuances, I think is very affirming, especially to a young person. 

Theresa Kiser: Yes, absolutely.

What Age Reader?

One of the difficulties that I have encountered in the past with books for this age group is, okay, you have middle schoolers, some of whom are starting to crave reading a little bit about romance kind of thing.

But a lot of the books that are out there are kind of too much for you know, maybe. Middle school girl, who’s more chastity minded and wants to read a book that’s not boring, but also is not, and does have romance, but has also not. Just *too much* in that department. So what is maybe the youngest reader that would be able to read your book?

Cause I know it tackles some more advanced themes. But how does it treat it? Who would you feel comfortable reading your book at what age? 

Carolyn Astfalk: I would say generally speaking, I would say 16. Yeah. Every child is different and some kids are more sheltered. Now, if you have a 13 year old who reads contemporary romances or the secular YA’s, this will seem extraordinarily tame to them.

But if you have a very sheltered young man or woman that doesn’t have a lot of experience with romance then… With my own daughter, she hasn’t read my books yet. She’s read the short stories, but she’s going to be 14 and she would probably be fine with it, but I think she could wait.a little longer for that. 

So it’s an individual thing. 

It’s always great if parents read something first, but I know that that’s not always realistic when you have a bunch of kids and a bunch of books, and it’s just time consuming. 

One of the nice things we did on our Catholic Teen Books website is for the books that are there, we put up a content guide, and that is an aid to help parents or teens themselves gauge who they think this is appropriate for. So you get an idea of any violence or sexuality or anything that might be uncomfortable or that the teen might not be ready for yet. 

Catholic Teen Books

Theresa Kiser: That sounds like a great resource. Is it the books just by the by the authors which are reviewed or are there more books reviewed?

Carolyn Astfalk: The books that are all there are all books by our selected authors. So I think there’s about a dozen authors. And it’s not necessarily every book they’ve written because my adult books aren’t on there, or some other authors might do some non-fiction. It’s just fiction by these authors that we’ve all vetted in and put on the website.

So they put them there with outlines, there’s links to discussion questions, or study guides, the content guide. That kind of thing helps teens and parents discover not only what they like, but what’s best suited to them. 

Theresa Kiser: That sounds really helpful. 

So what message do you want readers to take away about your book?

Carolyn Astfalk: I think that Catholic fiction, first of all, is a thing for adults and teens and for young children too. But it exists, and it’s not necessarily preachy or boring or pious, but it’s actually fun and adventurous and can be a fun supplement to your other reading that it can be part of what you enjoy.

Theresa Kiser: Absolutely. 

Giveaway

Well, thank you so much. Carolyn has offered up to give as a giveaway, a copy of Treasures, Visible and Invisible, which is an anthology by eight Catholic Teen Books authors. So can you tell us a little bit about the anthology?

Carolyn Astfalk: So this project was so much fun. We had done a couple other anthologies where we each contributed a short story, and there are a variety of genres.

So we have saint stories and we have historical fiction. We have romance, we have mystery. We have dystopian.. All these things together that all the different authors bring. And what was so special about this book is that we decided we wouldn’t just tie them by a theme but by an object. 

So there is a Relic of St. Patrick that moves through each one of these stories and they cross continents in Europe and north America a couple of times. And it moves from, you know, like 300 A.D. all the way up into the two thousands. So it was really a fun project to see how that, that object moves through each of our stories so distinctly. 

Where to Find the Author

Theresa Kiser: Really fun. Well, thank you so much for offering that. And if you are interested in reading some of these stories yourself we will have a giveaway going on. So check the show notes for that. And Carolyn, for those who are interested in reading your books where can they find you?

Well, the easiest places to go to my website, which is Carolynastfalk.com. I have all the links to my books and audio books and anthologies there. And I do a lot of reviews of Catholic fiction. So there’s a lot of that on my blog as well. So you can find more than just my books.

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Carolyn Astfalk: Awesome. All right. Well, thank you so much!

 Carolyn, as you heard is the author of several books and has a lot of experience with indie publishing and traditional publishing with Quiver Full. So if you want to hear some tips from her, come and join us in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club for our exclusive interview with Carolyn about writing.

So we will see you there in the meantime join our giveaway. And thank you so much, Carolyn, for joining us today on the podcast. 

Theresa Kiser: This has been Theresa Kiser with the Catholic Kidlit Podcast. 

The best way to support the Catholic kidlit creator you heard from today is to buy their books, leave reviews, and spread the word on social media and in person.

If you want to write meaningful children’s books with a Catholic heart, check out the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club at CatholicKidlit.com. 

Together we can create and discover books to nurture children’s souls.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and see you next time!

What fiction has helped shape your values? Were you connected with non-didactic teen books at that age?

Let me know in the comments!

Theresa Kiser

I’m Theresa Kiser, speaker and award-winning children’s book author of the picture books Arthur the Clumsy Altar Server (OSV, Coming Fall 2022), Seven Gifts of Baptism (Holy Heroes, coming 2022), and Liturgical Colors (Holy Heroes, 2019), as well as the fantasy adventure series The Manakor Chronicles. Find more about my books at theresakiser.com and engage with me to write better Catholic kidlit in the Catholic Kidlit Writers Club!