Faith and the Fantastic: Revealing Kat Howard’s A Cathedral of Myth and Bone

We’re pleased to reveal the cover for A Cathedral of Myth and Bone, the first short fiction collection from Kat Howard. From Arthurian romance to Joan of Arc, many of Howard’s stories re-envision myths and fairytales and the lives of the saints. Check out the full cover design below, and learn more about the collection with an introduction from the author.

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone publishes September 2018 with Saga Press. From the catalog copy:

In these sixteen exquisite stories Kat Howard deftly weaves in and out of the countries of myth and hagiography to write the lives of women untold and unexplored.

A woman being written into her boyfriend’s fiction is at first flattered to be his muse, but then finds her real life literally consumed and overtaken by his. A desperate young woman makes a prayer to the Saint of Sidewalks, but the miracle she receives isn’t what she expected. A painter spies a naked man, crouched by the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, transform into a beautiful white bird and decides to paint him, and becomes involved in his curse. Jeanne, a duelist and a sacred blade for God and Her holy saints, finds that the price of truth is always blood. And in the novella “Once, Future” Howard reimagines the Arthurian romance on a modern college campus as a story that is told, and told again, until the ending is right.

Mundane and magical, profane and reverent, romantic and uncompromising, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone journeys into the liminal spaces of contemporary fiction and unfurls them.

Cover photograph by Amy Haslehurst; Art Direction by Michael McCartney

 


 

Introduction

Writing, for me, is an act of faith. When I sit down to write, I have to believe in what I am writing. Any hesitation, any loss of faith, and the story breaks down, falls apart. I have words scribbled on pages – maybe even beautiful words – but without belief, they’re not a story. And the faith doesn’t end there. I have to believe that the story will find an audience. That somewhere out in the world, there is a reader who will also believe in that story, and in that act of belief is where the miracle occurs: the story becomes real.

I grew up steeped in story. Not just fairytales and myths, but hagiography as well. The richness and strangeness of these stories, their glorious impossibility, their connection to the numinous, was the place that I first found stories that I wanted to believe in. I was as likely to pretend to be Joan of Arc fighting the English at recess as I was Artemis shooting her bow. But as I grew older and started writing, I realized that for all their power the old stories – the myths and the fairytales and the lives of the saints – told a very narrow sort of story, one which closed off more doors than it opened. Here was one way to be, they said. Here was the set of rules that led to the happy ending: Be careful lest you break them. It was a narrow view of stories that held such potential. When I wrote these stories, I wanted to look at them with new eyes, break them out of the frames they had been displayed in, tell their truth slant.

And this too is an act of faith: the belief that there is life and truth in the old stories, that I can find that truth and make it recognizable even as I turn it inside out. If I didn’t believe in these stories, if the way they were told didn’t matter to me, there would be no reason for me to spend time in them – to listen for the silenced voices, to look for the gaps in the narratives. To believe that there are important stories in the silence and the gaps, even if those weren’t the stories that were originally told.

I am drawn to short fiction because it distills the beauty and the darkness that are possible in fiction, and particularly in the fantastic. It allows stories to be more intense, more dreamlike, for me as a writer to hang a skin of myth on the skeleton of the strange. This collection, which includes previously published work as well as original material, showcases my quest to re-envision those old stories that first made me love fiction and the fantastic. To give an ancient Irish king new life in New York City, to see the burden of sainthood when prayers can be sent by email, to tell and retell the story of King Arthur on a modern college campus. To show that the power in the old stories can be extended, carried on, made fresh, and opened up for a new audience.

And of course not every story here is a retelling of something older. Some of these stories engage more directly with questions of faith: of how belief – or its lack – can be the thing that pushes you outside of the story that you are comfortable in, and into a story that’s altogether stranger.

Turn the page. I have miracles to offer you.

 


Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • A Life in Fictions
  • The Saint of the Sidewalks
  • Maiden, Hunter, Beast
  • Once, Future
  • Translatio Corporis
  • Dreaming Like a Ghost
  • Murdered Sleep
  • The Speaking Bone
  • Those Are Pearls
  • All of Our Past Places
  • Saints’ Tide
  • Painted Birds and Shivered Bones
  • Returned
  • The Calendar of Saints
  • The Green Knight’s Wife
  • Breaking the Frame

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