#atozchallenge: D is for Denni Johnson

Denni Johnson - Jena MaloneQ: Denni’s got quite the role in this trilogy as the One of All Sacred.  What’s her origin?

A: She was a relatively new character alongside Caren and Poe, but she didn’t really have much of a role until about a quarter of the way into The Phoenix Effect.  A proto-Denni popped up in True Faith in a similar role but with vastly different motives and personality.  Both versions were pre-teens.  When writing the trilogy it made more sense for her to be a teenager and a little closer in age to Caren.

Q: Why the One of All Sacred, anyway?  Where did that idea come from?

A: In a way that came from a subplot in TF.  I was fascinated by the idea of Chosen One plotlines at the time, especially ones with mundane origins that ascend to deity level, either by a ritual or by outside forces.  It was still a subplot in TPE, but by the time of the trilogy reboot it became a major plot point — so much so that her awakening is Chapter 1 of A Division of Souls.  She’s one of the major drivers of the plot of the trilogy.  [More about the One of All Sacred on 4/18 when we hit ‘O’ on the A to Z Challenge!]

Q: Like her sister, she’s got a Mendaihu name as well.  An extended version of it is given in A Division of Souls.  What’s the story behind that?

A: She gives her Mendaihu name as Denysia Shalei si Emmadha si Dhumélis.  In Anjshé, the ‘si’ is a conjunction — in this sense she’s merely giving multiple clan names that her Trisandi soul is tied to.  [Pronunciation: shah-LEYey-MADH-ah, and dhoo-MEY-lees.  The ‘dh’ is a ‘d’ sound with a very slight lisp.]  All three clans are highly regarded on Trisanda as strong in both spirit and in deed.  She purposely gave all three names at the Moulding Warehouse to prove a single point: she wasn’t going to take her role as the One of All Sacred lightly, not if she claimed to be from such an honored lineage.
And yes, this is a lineage for her entire family.  Caren almost never claims all three names as she rarely sees need for it.

Q: That’s Jena Malone in that picture.  Is she the basis for Denni?

A: Yes, she is.  I wrote TPE around the same time the movie Contact, where she played the young Ellie Arroway.  Spunky, smart and self-reliant, yet still relies on the connection of others.  The trilogy version has her somewhat older (maybe her role in Donnie Darko, which was out about the same time I started ADoS).

Q: For a fifteen-year-old girl, she certainly has a hell of a lot of responsibility, doesn’t she?

A: Well, sure, why not?  She shares much the same daily responsibilities as her older sister Caren, especially since they’re living on their own.  Her parents made sure she was self-reliant, as both they and Caren were ARU agents, and they didn’t want her to completely depend on the help of others.  But they also taught her that there’s no fault in asking for it, either.  Whenever she’s performing her duties as the One of All Sacred, she always has that in the back of her mind, and that’s why she nearly always encourages community but also reminds her followers to think for themselves instead of following her blindly.
That’s not to say that she immediately becomes a Magical Girl and her real life is conveniently forgotten whenever she’s doing her magic as the One.  Now that she’s known as the One by pretty much everyone on Earth, she of course feels a bit self-conscious, not to mention feeling a bit weird about still needing to attend school.  She wants to do her best as the One, but she also wants to continue being teenaged Denni.  I actually touch on this theme in The Persistence of Memories as well as The Balance of Light.
In short: she’s willing to take all the responsibility that comes with being a deity, but she refuses to let it go to her head.

Q: What is her relationship with Amna Ehramanis?

A: She’s her best bud, they’ve known each other since they were five.  Like all lifelong friends, they’ve gone through all kinds of ups and downs, scrapes and japes, and they’re still BFFs.  Denni always plays the straight character to Amna’s wackiness.  As to why Amna becomes her devoted Protector once she’s fully awakened, well…there are a few reasons for that, which are revealed in TPoM and TBoL.  😉

Q: Anything else?

A: Like Caren, she’s a music fiend and constantly streams stuff from her sister’s collection.  She’s a voracious reader.  She’s a decent student and gets excellent marks, but she’ll admit she doesn’t see the point in trying to be top student.  She loves hanging out with Caren’s fellow agents at the ARU, and thinks of them as an extended family.  In particular she looks upon Alec Poe as a big brother.  She’s had a few school crushes here and there, but nothing serious, and she’s okay with that.  There’s a fifteen-year difference between Caren and Denni, which might lead some to think she was an unplanned pregnancy, but she’s actually not.  Aram and Celine deliberately chose to have another child after the previous Season of Embodiment.  (As to whether they knew her fate at that time is not known.)

And yes, she too has a theme song, Lamb’s “Small”. This is what she thinks about when she’s up in her nonspace.