There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. –Genesis 6:5
Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim.
For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria.
Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.
-Jane Ciabattari for National Public Radio
“Angeology finds an almost hallucinatory power….fusing the debased, the psychological, and the theological, into a single rich, strange tableau that transmits a shock of truth.”
“Breathtakingly imaginative…. Once you’ve entered Angelology‘s enthralling world…you’ll be thinking, ‘Vampires? Who cares about vampires?'”
“An elegantly ambitious archival thriller in which knowledge dwells in the secret underground places, labyrinthine libraries and overlooked artifacts that have been hallmarks of the genre from The Name of Rose and Possession to Angels and Demons and The Historian. Angelology is richly allusive and vividly staged with widescreen-ready visuals, a dewy but adaptable heroine and a dashingly cruel villain…. Sensual and intelligent, Angelology is a terrifically clever thriller-more Eco than Brown, without the cloudy sentimentalism of New Age encomiums or Catholic treatises. It makes no apologies for its devices, and none are necessary. How else would it be possible to bring together the angels of the Bible and Apocrypha, the myth of Orpheus, Bulgarian geography, medieval monastics, the Rockefellers, Nazis, nuns and musicology? And how splendid that it has happened.”
-New York Times Book Review
“Beautiful, powerful, cruel, and avaricious, the half-human, half-angel Nephilim have thrived for centuries by instilling fear among humans, instigating war, and infiltrating the most powerful and influential families of history. Only a secret group of scholars, the Society of Angelologists, has endeavored to combat the spread of evil generated by Nephilim. Now, a strange affliction is destroying the Nephilim, and the cure is rumored to be an ancient artifact of great power. Sister Evangeline of the St. Rose Convent discovers an archived letter regarding the artifact’s location and is thrust into the race to locate the artifact before the Nephilim do. She uncovers her family’s past as high- ranking angelologists, and their secrets assist in her dangerous hunt. Trussoni, author of the acclaimed memoir Falling Through the Earth, makes an impressive fiction debut with this engrossing and fascinating tale. With captivating characters and the scholarly blending of biblical and mythical lore, this will be popular for fans of such historical thrillers as Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth or Katherine Neville’s The Eight. Sony Pictures Entertainment has purchased the film rights.”
–STARRED Library Journal
“Critically acclaimed memoirist Trussoni (Falling Through The Earth, 2006) breaks into the fiction market in a big way with an epic fantasy that combines a rich mythology with some Da Vinci Code-style treasure-hunting.
The contest between good and evil is waged not in the heavens but here on Earth, between warring factions of biblical scholars and heavenly hosts. The unusual central character is Sister Evangeline, a 23-year-old nun at St. Rose Convent outside New York City. In the course of her work, she stumbles across a mislaid correspondence between philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller and the convent’s founding abbess concerning an astonishing 1943 discovery in the mountains of Greece. Simultaneously, the book introduces Percival Grigori, a critically ill, once-winged member of one of the most powerful families in an ancient race of beings born of a union between fallen angels and human beings: the Nephilim. These parasitic creatures, the “giants” referred to in the sixth chapter of Genesis, have engaged in spiritual warfare for generations with the Society of Angelologists, a group that included Evangeline’s parents. “It has been one continuous struggle from the very beginning,” says one of Evangeline’s comrades- in-arms. “St. Thomas Aquinas believed that the dark angels fell within twenty seconds of creation-their evil nature cracked the perfection of the universe almost instantly, leaving a terrible fissure between good and evil.” As Evangeline and Grigori are drawn into conflict over control of a powerful artifact, the lyre of the mythical Orpheus, Trussoni constructs a marathon narrative arc, ending the volume with a satisfying, if startling, transformation. A film adaptation and a sequel are already waiting in the wings.
An ambitious adventure story with enough literary heft and religious fervor to satisfy anyone able to embrace its imaginative conceits and Byzantine plot.
“A richly detailed, brilliantly conceived work that opens a golden door into another world-or, even more alluringly, another sphere.”
“Danielle Trussoni has written a great, cracking thunderbolt of a story. Angelology is an exquisitely crafted adventure into untold realms of imagination, religion, and history. Meticulous in its research and delicious in its execution, the novel weaves Western theology together with ancient myth in a way that will make readers question what they think they know about angels. A triumph.”
–Katherine Howe, author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
“Angelology is everything a reader wants . . . a clever, fast-paced thriller with a strong sense of place and beguiling, emotionally engaging characters [and] a skillful, satisfying history. . . . A pleasure from start to finish . . . A wonderful achievement.”
–Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth
“Angelology by Danielle Trussoni is a thrilling, gorgeous read. Atmospheric, beguiling, and-if you’ll pardon the pun-diabolically good.” –Raymond Khoury, author of The Last Templar and Sanctuary
“Angelology lets loose the ancient fallen angels to the modern world with devastating results. Trussoni has written a holy thriller that will arrest your attention from the opening pages and not let go till its mysteries take wing.”
–Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angels of Destruction
“Danielle Trussoni creates a gorgeous gothic world for the reader, where the people who surround us are not what they seem, and stories are unveiled as more truth than fable. This is a book that resonates as both haunting and holy. A must read.”
–Brunonia Barry, author of The Lace Reader
I began to write Angelology with a very clear picture of the settings I wanted to include in the story. I knew that I wanted to write about a convent and I knew that I wanted to write about The Devil's Throat, a cave in the Rhodopes Mountains of Bulgaria with an amazing waterfall and underground river that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, but I wasn't entirely sure of how to bring the material together.
Knowing that I needed to have a firsthand encounter with convent life, I went to St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin (my hometown) to speak with the nuns who lived there. My great-aunt Drusilla is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration living at St. Rose, and this made my presence at the convent a little less odd, although I'm sure that the nuns didn't know what to think of having a writer trailing after them and asking personal questions!
At the time of my visit to the convent, I had no clear vision of how I would write about the convent. And so I spent a lot of time simply following the Sisters through their day. There was a beautiful chapel at St. Rose where the nuns went to pray. One night, when I was walking back from the chapel, I found myself in the convent reading room, a small space filled with religious books. One shelf of the library was filled with books about angels. I took a stack of books down, sat in a comfortable chair and began reading. Within hours I understood that angels would be at the very center of my book and that the Nephilim—the angel-human hybrids mentioned in Genesis 6 of the Bible—would be central characters.
I came to the Orpheus myth in an equally roundabout fashion. The Devil's Throat captured my imagination when I lived in Sofia, Bulgaria, with my husband, the writer Nikolai Grozni. He took me to the cave for the first time and I fell in love with the stark, craggy landscape and the mythologies that surrounded the cave. In local legend, the Devil's Throat forms the entrance to the underworld where Orpheus descended to save his lover Eurydice. So my interest in Orpheus was really secondary to my interest in the cave itself, at least in the beginning.
How was the process of writing your previous book, the memoir Falling Through the Earth, different from writing the novel Angelology?
The process was completely different in some ways and very similar in others. My first book was a memoir about my relationship with my father and was, of course, much more personal in nature. I found that Falling Through the Earth was more emotionally draining, especially because my father was ill for much of the time I was writing the book. Angelology, on the other hand, was a pleasure to write. I had such fun creating the characters. I found that I deeply enjoyed going to my desk each morning because I would often discover something completely new about the story. By the end, I loved the characters I had created and didn't want the project to end.
What kind of research did you do in order to write Angelology?
Research was a huge element in preparing to write Angelology. I did not have much experience studying theology or the history of religion, and so I felt that it was absolutely necessary to learn as much as possible about the various perceptions of angels. I read a lot of wonderful academic studies about angels and I read quite a lot of the Bible. I read parts of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine and the history of religious orders in the United States. It was also very important for me to research the historical periods that appear in the novel—the medieval world of Brother Clematis, the Second World War environment of Celestine and Gabriella. I also made many trips to New York to capture Evangeline's and Verlaine's world.
Which did you enjoy writing more, the present-day events with Evangeline and Verlaine or Celestine's narrative?
Actually, the most engrossing section of Angelology for me to write was Brother Clematis's narrative, a first-person journal of a monk's journey to the Devil's Throat. I also loved writing Celestine's recollections of Paris in the 1940s. Both of these characters allowed me to imagine places and historical events that were very far from the life I was living when I wrote the book. Being transported to other places is, for me, is the real pleasure of writing fiction.
One of the novel's conceits suggests that the divide between church and science was engineered by an outside agency. Do you think religion and science have become antagonistic?
Yes, it seems to me that, in many ways, science and religion have parted ways. We don't have many intellectuals like Isaac Newton who are dedicated to exploring both the divine and natural worlds at once. Our era is marked by the division of thought into specialized compartments—either one is a scientist or a historian or a mathematician or a philosopher or a doctor. Indeed, Newton—who was a physicist and an astronomer and a theologian among other things—would probably find our specialized approach to knowledge very strange.
Do you believe that a more-than-human evil lay behind the rise of the Nazi regime and others like it?
In Angelology, the characters posit the idea that the Nephilim are behind all great acts of evil throughout history—war, famine, genocide, and great economic inequality. The angelologists, who are at work to fight the Nephilim, believe that through wealth and influence the Nephilim have created systems—economic, political, social—that suppress regular people. Some of the characters in the novel believe that the Nephilim orchestrated the Nazi rise to power, but of course this speculation is part of the fictional world I've created.
You split your time between the United States and France. Has living abroad altered your perceptions as a writer?
I have always loved the sense of dislocation I feel when I live abroad. I have lived in Japan, Bulgaria and now France. I find that I begin to pay very close attention to my own culture when I'm in a place that is entirely foreign, and that my attention to detail sharpens. The English language becomes very comforting, almost like a cocoon, after fumbling with a foreign language. In the end, it is nice to have the option to live far away from home but then, of course, it is great to come back, too.
Your husband, Nikolai Grozni, is also a novelist. How does living with another writer affect your own work?
In a lot of ways living with another writer helps me to stay on course with my own work. We have a set schedule each day. Both Nikolai and I write in the morning in different offices at home. We work until around lunch, eat lunch together, and then either go back to writing or do the shopping or take a walk. Our morning work hours are very quiet, very calm, with no music or television on, making the house a perfect environment for writing. I am also able to discuss my work with Nikolai, which is unbelievably helpful.
The ending of Angelology has quite a surprise twist. Where do you see Evangeline headed from here?
Evangeline is in quite a difficult situation at the end of Angelology and she will be working through the complications of this in the next book.
What are you working on now?
I am writing about Evangeline, of course! The sequel to Angelology is set in Paris and finds Evangeline and Verlaine trying to find their way back to one another.