XOXOAD is excited to welcome back fanfiction star Helena Hunting! Ever had an inkling to go get a tattoo? Or do you already have some and want more or just want to change one? You’re in luck because Helena chats with us about how she chose the right kind of ink for her characters, and she may just have the inside scoop on where to get good inspiration for the next time you inked.

Hi there! Big thanks to XOXO After Dark for inviting me back to discuss my second novel, Inked Armor. I’m excited for readers to continue their journey with Hayden and Tenley!

I adore tattoos; the gorgeous vibrant ones, the dark ones, even the disturbing ones that make me cringe because they’re so terrifyingly realistic. No matter the subject, there is so much artistic talent in a beautifully rendered tattoo.

The inspiration for the body art in Clipped Wings and Inked Armor came from a variety of sources. One of the first books I perused for ideas was The Mammoth Book of Tattoos. It’s full of stunning work by amazing artists, from intricate feminine pieces to sinister ones. From there I cultivated a list of favorite tattooists. I discovered a love for the artists from Immortal Ink in the UK.

While Tenley’s tattoos were easy to develop in my head, finding a visual that accurately depicted the design concept was far more challenging. In the original version of the story, the wings were reminiscent of those of a butterfly; fragile and beautiful, much like Tenley. I ran across an image of battered wings that really spoke to me; however, as the story evolved, so did Tenley’s tattoo. Butterflies are a symbol of transformation, and while the events which brought Tenley to Hayden were certainly transformative, it wasn’t the reason she chose the design.

Eventually the tattoo morphed into damaged angel wings, because of what they represent. Angel wings are not only symbols of protection, but also of guidance and freedom. When Tenley finally brings the art to Hayden, she’s still submerged in grief. For her, the tattoo is a symbol of not only her loss, but her desire to break free from the guilt she carries with her. The broken wings reflect her current state. By transferring the design onto her skin, she hopes to absolve herself of some of the blame she harbors over her losses.

Hayden’s tattoos were a pleasure to research. There is immense artistry in tattooing. It takes an incredible amount of skill to transfer a two dimensional design onto a three dimensional surface. I discovered the original concept for Hayden’s Celtic phoenix tattoo on a site called Chopper Tattoo. It was the perfect design; covering most of the model’s torso and an entire arm. It gave me a deeper appreciation of how a gorgeous a tattoo becomes even more dynamic when the canvas it covers is equally beautiful.

Hayden’s ink needed to be balanced, though, which led to the vibrant, colorful sleeve on his opposite arm. The anatomical bleeding heart surrounded by budding flowers, along with the koi thrashing upstream, depicted both beauty and struggle, which is typical of Hayden. As hard as he is on the outside, he’s also caring and loyal to the select people he allows into his inner circle. His body art reflect that duality: a balance between the light and the dark.

When it comes to Tenley’s design, Hayden understands that the darkness is indicative of a significant emotional trauma. As he transfers the art to her skin, he learns just how deep those wounds go. His infatuation with her extends beyond her art; and his control slips and eventually breaks because of it. With Tenley, it’s about more than the ink. It’s about the connection that comes from the tattooing process and the eventual discovery that they are commiserate in their losses.

In Inked Armor, their journey and their relationship evolves as Hayden and Tenley seek to repair their fractured bond. Tenley’s tattoo sessions become a way for her and Hayden to rebuild their trust. In the end, the process is more than catharsis for loss. It’s completing the circle, closing one chapter so Tenley is free to move forward with her life and with Hayden.

In this story, tattoos symbolize the converging of art and memory. It’s the perfect medium to bring two very lost souls together, so they can find a way to heal.