The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Karen Healey

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by Karen Healey, author of the Aurealis winner and William C. Morris Debut Award finalist Guardian of the Dead, The Shattering, and When We Wake. While We Run, the sequel to When We Wake, is available May 27th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Karen technically lives in New Zealand, but actually lives on the internet.

Join us as we cover subjects ranging from Cake to Victor von Doom, and more!

If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?

I would love to be cooler than I’m about to be, but really, if I’m going to stride into a room and have everyone gasp “Karen Healey!” while my theme song plays, that song is going to be “Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” by Cake.

Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?

How youthy are we talking? I mean, would I have to go back to being a youth? Because being a largely independent adult is a much, much better deal, even if it comes with some achy joints and annoying tax bills, especially if it comes with news of extraterrastrial life.

What D&D character alignment best describes you first thing in the morning?

Chaotic Good. I stumble through the early morning with good intentions, but very little control. Fortunately, before I get to bed I’m Lawful Neutral, so I can lay out clothes/make lunch/put stuff I need in my bag in the evenings. And by the time I get to school, I’ve got my teacher face on—Lawful Good, all the way.

While We Run Karen Healey Choose your preferred fictional vacation spot: Narnia or Middle-earth (or some other fictional realm)…

Take it from someone who lives in Middle-earth; it’s pretty and all, but where I’d really like to visit is Blackwater College, as described by Pamela Dean in Tam Lin.

What would your Patronus/familiar be?

Like a lot of Antipodeans, I bemuse my northern friends with my enthusisasm for squirrels. But they’re so energetic and inquisitive and like collecting things that interest them! I think a red squirrel would make an excellent Patronus for me.

Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time.

1. Dr Doom. A lot of villains have these tortured personal backgrounds, and Doom makes gestures towards this (scarred face! so sad!) but mostly he is a grandiosely terrible person who cannot bear that anyone thinks him to be anything other than manifestly superior.

In real life, people who consider themselves superior to everyone often get away with their awful crap. But because Doom is a Marvel villain, he is regularly knocked on his ass by a guy who stretches real good, and I find that delightful.

2. Cersei Lannister. You just get on with your manipulative, conniving, incestuous self, Cersei. You’re grand. I hope you survive!

3. David Xanatos, that magnificent bastard.

What kind of apocalypse (zombie, robot, environmental, etc.) is most compatible with your survival skills? And what kind of apocalypse would you like to avoid at all costs?

I cannot shoot a gun, swing a bat, run very fast, or drive, so a zombie apocalypse would knock me right out. But assuming I proved immune to the deadly disease in question, I think I might thrive in the aftermath of a superplague apocalypse. I have basic gardening, cooking, and sewing skills, I have experience in instructing disparate groups of people how to do things, and I can tell good stories. These seem like useful survival skills for building society after the danger has passed.

If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?

Haunt as in throw all their possessions awry and write warnings on their bathroom mirror with ghost blood and come screaming through the windows as they recoiled in dread?

Or haunt as in casually spy on their guests and read their books over their shoulders and use my psychic energy to gently drape a blanket over them when they fell asleep on the sofa?

Michael Bay for the first. Oscar Wilde for the second.

List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.

a. So far, my work is exclusively set in New Zealand and Australia. I am a New Zealander born and bred, and I lived in Australia for years. Reviewers who mention setting tend to fall somewhere between “how vastly exotic!” and “clearly did all her research via Google; feels exactly like Iowa.”

b. I care a great deal about social justice and representation of under-represented people in fiction, and this concern informs my work. If you’re socially conservative, you probably won’t enjoy it.

c. I have this thing for tripartite sentences.

If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?

I’d like a lost portfolio of Sylvia Plath poems or the sudden discovery of Sei Shonagon’s follow-up to The Pillow Book as much as the next nerd, but I would sell the souls of all my students, past, present, and future, for a new Jane Austen novel.

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