Jennifer the Damned

June 5, 2017

Author: Karen Ullo.


When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose. Yet with every rapturous taste of blood, Jennifer Carshaw cannot help but long for something even more exquisite: the capacity to experience true love. As she struggles to balance her murderous secret life with homework, cross-country practice, and her first boyfriend, Jennifer delves into the terrifying questions surrounding her inhuman existence, driven by the unexpectedly human need to understand why she is doomed by a life she never chose.

(Published Summary)

My Thoughts:

Jennifer the Damned was marketed as an anecdote to modern vampire stories. It was supposed to hark back to Dracula and the other original horror tales.

I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at its ‘highschool YA feel’ and writing style. It felt like a YA vampire book + Catholicism, which is certainly more interesting than a straight vampire novel – but nothing like Dracula.

To be fair, the Catholic element adds an entirely new layer to the entire story. Jennifer has never been baptized, ​but she learned to believe the Catholic truths from her vampire mother, who could, unlike any human being, recognize the transubstantiation of the sacraments with her own inhuman senses. Karen Ullo seems to draw a parallel throughout the story between the Sacraments and the vampirism. Not dragging the sacraments down in anyway; more comparing the vampire’s act of consuming life to a twisted, low, faint echo of Communion. Every time Jennifer kills, she experiences it not as eating dinner or simply nourishing herself, but as consuming life – “it was the taste of soul”. It’s overwhelming, amazing, the most incredible experience she’s ever had. Practically ecstasy.

And at a certain point, she realizes that Communion, (more specifically the Blood of Christ, which is what vampires are drawn to/driven mad by), is almost the true form of what she does. She will never be satisfied by the blood she drinks. She will always grow hungry again, go hunting again, always empty, always seeking. It reminds me of the scriptural passage about the difference between well-water and living water.

However, the ending in particular was very disappointing.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Content Review:

Sexual Content: “I did not know exactly how vampires reproduced. I did know that the species endured through some process of altering living human beings, so vampires had no need to mate.” / Character turns on vampiric charm to seduce a doctor into doing her will – when he tries to kiss her, she throws him across the room. / Character again uses vampiric charm to seduce a boy, drawing him away from his comrades. There’s some kissing, he tears his shirt off, he is clearly aroused and wishing to go further (she kills him). / More kissing. Boy offers to trade a date for doing her a favor. / Two dating characters end up in the bedroom, but the woman refuses to have sex with him. / “Wait, your mom keeps this place…?” “So she can f*** strangers, yeah.” / “Carter Guidry was a senior at Prompt Succor, the kind of greasy fat guy nobody wanted to hang out with ,except all the boys hung out with him because he sold porn under the bleachers during lunch.

Language: 19 f***, 12 scatological terms, 11 d***, 6 derogatory terms, 6 hell

Violence: Character knows that her vampire ‘mother’ killed her real mother: “she performed the C-section in the woman’s own living room with only her teeth for a scalpel”. Character cuts her forehead running into a bookcase. Vampire kills a man – there’s no portrayed struggle, but there is mention of the wound in his neck, and the ecstasy she feels drinking his blood. One character accidentally knocks a bookcase over on another, leaving broken ribs and a punctured lung. Vampire kills a woman, breaks her body up to transport it in two backpacks, and feeds some of it to pigs before throwing the rest in a river. Five more distinct kills, one of them being a dog. At one point the vampire forces two humans to drink each other’s blood. All of the on-screen vampiric kills focus on the POV character’s strong emotions and sensations as she takes them, rather then on the blood and gore.

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