Fairytales, Retellings, and YA Fantasy: an interview with Aamna Qureshi

July 2021.

Welcome to my book nook! A place where I get to indulge my nerdy side and talk books with amazingly talented authors. Today’s guest is Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion which is coming out July 20th, 2021, and When a Brown Girl Flees which is coming out in 2023.

It was such an honor to speak with Aamna today, so I hope you all enjoy our discussion about fairytales, retellings and their place in YA fantasy (with a little romantic intrigue thrown in for good measure!)

Live magically x

Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity.

For more information, check out Aamna Qureshi’s website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/
Follow her on instagram: @aamna_qureshi or Twitter: @aamnaqureshi_

The Rose Petal Princess

This is a Fairy Tale written in a style to match (think Grimm Brothers rather than Disney). I’ve always loved fairy tales; loved the originals, loved the retellings, loved the animated versions. There’s such a beautiful magic that fairy tales evoke and the suspension of disbelief allows for wonderous things to occur (unless you’re the “um actually…” type).
This is the first of nine fairy tales nestled in my fairy tale treasury: The Rose Petal Princess and other fairy tales. Read more about this treasury here: https://jordanhbartlett.com/fairytales/
Cover image designed by Ashley Banbury, @ashtreehouse on Instagram


Long ago and far away, there lived a Queen. She lived in a magnificent palace and ruled over her realm with compassion and grace. Her people loved her, and she loved them in return. She was happy in every way but one: in her heart, she longed for a daughter. 

Every night before she went to bed, she would dance beneath the stars in a courtyard scattered with rose petals. As she danced, she would wish for a little girl that she could love and care for; a little girl she could dance with and hold in her arms. The Queen’s feet would fly and her skirts would twirl as she spun through the petals alone.

One evening, as she twisted and turned with her arms outstretched, her bare foot trod on a lone thorn among the rose petals. She cried out and fell to the ground. A shimmering tear slipped down her cheek and landed on the bloodied petals at her feet. 

All at once, the wind picked up and rushed through the starlit courtyard. The air filled with perfume as the petals swirled around the frightened Queen. She covered her face with her hands as the wind became a gale and the soft petals, now razor sharp, cut at her skin.  

When the wind finally stopped and she lowered her hands, the Queen gasped at what she saw. Spread across the middle of the courtyard like a mosaic, hundreds of petals had spiraled to form a rose. A young girl stood in the center.

“Hello mother,” the girl said. “I’ve waited so long to dance with you.”

The girl helped the stunned Queen to her feet and hugged her. Then mother and daughter began to dance under the stars. Their feet flew and their skirts twirled as they spun through the petals, laughing all the while.

The Queen was finally happy because her heart was full. The realm rejoiced to watch the little rose petal Princess grow to be as beautiful and graceful as her mother. Every night, the Queen and the Princess danced together under the stars. Their movements were always in perfect harmony, and word of their skill spread across the land.

On the night before the Princess’ sixteenth birthday, a comet cut across the sky and many of the stars in its path went dark. The palace was quiet; all those within held their breath. Guards lined the entrance hall, waiting. No one knew what this strange omen meant, or what future it foretold. 

As the clock struck twelve, a loud crash rattled the front door in its frame. The Queen held the Princess’ hand tightly from the top of the stairs as the sound came again. At the third crash, the door burst open. A monster made of darkness emerged from the shadowy night. Its two gleaming red eyes scanned the room, its sharp yellow teeth flashed as it grinned up at the Queen and her daughter.

The monster lifted one black finger and pointed it at the guards. At its command, an army of people, long dead and somehow impossibly alive, crawled into the hall. With black eyes and cruel smiles, they swarmed into the palace and cut down all those who stood in their path. The monster of darkness laughed in the chaos and addressed the Queen. 

“Light-footed Queen,” it said, “you and your petal will dance for us one last time.”

The Queen squeezed the Princess’ hand tighter. As the undead creatures crept closer, the two women began to dance.

Their feet flew, their arms twisted, and their bodies spun. Moonlight illuminated their limbs, leaving a bright trail following behind each movement. The creatures stopped, stunned by the spectacle. Then, with a subtle nod to her mother, the Princess began to dance faster. The Queen seamlessly increased her own tempo to match.

Delicate pointed feet became like hardened steel, bended arms became slashing blades. Their bodies becoming living weapons, they fought through the crowd of monsters. Heels crashed into decaying flesh. Fists cracked through brittle bone. They danced in perfect unison. Two edges of the same blade. 

They fought through the night. Never faltering, never missing a beat, the rhythm of battle hammered out with each landed blow. Too quick to catch, the enemy struggled to lay even a finger on them.

As the sun rose and light shone through the palace windows, the Queen lowered her arms. The Princess mirrored her posture. The monster of darkness had vanished, leaving an entrance hall filled with the bodies of fallen foes.

They had won.

While the realm celebrated the vanquishing of such evil from their borders, the Queen and the Princess began to prepare for its return. They trained their people to dance like weapons, and every night they looked up from their rose-strewn courtyard to the starlit sky.

Watching.

Waiting.

Both poised for an encore.