Flower crowns and Disney drama for the saints 

By Christina Capecchi


Princesses of Heaven: The Flowers

St. Therese of Lisieux is getting the Disney treatment, thanks to a talented Catholic artist. Fabiola Garza, 37, a character artist for Disney Creative Group in Orlando, brought six female saints to life in her stunning new picture book “Princesses of Heaven,” published by Word on Fire Spark.

The book was a labor of love for the night owl, who worked around her day job at Disney to research, write and illustrate it.

“I had some late nights that turned into mornings,” said Fabiola, a member of Holy Cross Catholic Church in Orlando. “It was rough.”

But the more she read about the saints — particularly their first-person writings — the more committed she became to the project.

“I feel a change within me when I spend my time reading that,” Fabiola said. “It inspires you to greater holiness. It makes you feel so connected across time to all the saints.”

Then came the sifting and culling, identifying little details from lengthy biographies to spark kids’ imaginations. “I let all the information settle in me,” she said, “and then I see what stays with me.”

The drawing process is always a joy for Fabiola, who has done many high-profile projects for Disney. She draws digitally, creating layers in Photoshop.

There’s something striking about seeing St. Joan of Arc and St. Kateri presented as Disney heroines: doe-shaped eyes, heart-shaped lips, a gentle wind ever rippling through their dresses and tresses.

It’s not that these saints are diluted or dumbed down. Rather, they are elevated, given the star treatment that was once limited to the likes of Ariel and Aurora. That’s the idea, Fabiola says: These real women deserve a place on the loftiest rung in kids’ imagination.

“I want to help children see the faith in the light that they would see a fairytale, with the same enchantment,” Fabiola said. “That’s an important concept to bring back to our faith, to retain the joyful wonder.”

When we see St. Therese of Lisieux riding in a horse-drawn carriage, leaning out the window with breathless anticipation, it feels like a Disney scene, the big break for peasant-turned-princess. A longtime dream has finally been fulfilled!

This carriage is not headed for a castle but a convent. St. Therese is entering religious life.

To see that milestone depicted with such radiance is powerful. It feels like a landmark, a first for picture books: Disney beauty paired with Catholic joy. As a reader, you want every little girl to see it, to recognize that following God’s path brings the kind of lasting peace that makes a heroine glow from the inside out.

Thankfully, many girls have. The book was published in March with an unusually big print run of 25,000. Less than a month later, it sold out.

This month the second print run — twice as large — is available. As a separate purchase, Word on Fire is also selling a locket designed by Fabiola for the book.

Anecdotally, she’s hearing of its impact. One mom took her daughters to a park and they began playing “Princesses of Heaven,” deciding what would be on their heavenly crowns and turning the playground into a convent. Another group of girls there was doing the exact same thing.

“Oh,” the mom said to the other parent, “you must have ‘Princesses of Heaven’ too.”

“Yes,” the other parent responded.

Fabiola couldn’t believe it. “I was an absolute puddle of gratitude to the Lord,” she said. “I couldn’t have thought of that in my wildest dreams. I can’t in any way attribute that to myself. God had something He wanted to do with this. I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”

Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.