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SPOILER WARNING: Plot details follow. Caution is advised!
I hate leaving you. I'd take care of you if I could. You know that, right? I'd take over the Institute. I love you all so much.

–Helen to Jules, City of Heavenly Fire

Helen Penhallow Blackthorn, also known among fey as Alessa, is the eldest child of Andrew Blackthorn and, along with her brother Mark, is his half-Shadowhunter and half-faerie offspring with Nerissa. She was a former member of the Council and is the wife of Aline Penhallow.


Early life

Helen was born to Andrew Blackthorn and Seelie Court faerie Lady Nerissa in 1989. She was followed by her younger brother Mark before their parents got separated. While she and Mark initially remained with Nerissa, she eventually sent them to Andrew at the Los Angeles Institute where they have since been raised and trained as Shadowhunter children. She received her first Mark when she was ten years old.

Despite having a different mother, Helen became very close with her younger siblings and grew up taking care of them. Being the oldest of seven children, she grew used to her life being crazy and hectic, though this has not made her immune to feeling exasperated by her siblings' antics. Nonetheless, she loves them fully.

At some point during her life, she came to the realization that she was bisexual[1] and came out to her parents. They accepted it casually, it seems, allowing her to date whomever she wanted. At some point, she met Aline Penhallow at the Rome Institute while hunting down the Crimson Hand, and the two began dating publicly, much to the Clave's general disapproval.


By 2007, Helen was already eighteen and had earned herself a seat on the Council as the representative of the Los Angeles Conclave. When Jace Lightwood went missing, the Clave began searching for him and Sebastian Morgenstern. After two weeks of searching, when the Council recommended the deprioritization the search as there was no evidence that Jace was alive, Helen was among those who voted against it, feeling that they needed to search for Jace. Sadly, they were overruled and the search was deprioritized, anyway, in favor of focusing solely on reinstating the wards that Sebastian had broken.

Some time later at the New York Institute, Helen and her girlfriend Aline were speaking privately with Maryse Lightwood when Isabelle and Alec updated their mother on what they had been up to, particularly that they had found Jace, and Sebastian, as well as some of their plans through Clary. Though surprised, Helen and Aline agreed not to reveal anything to the Clave. Helen even joined the group and helped them in their battle against Sebastian and his army of Dark Shadowhunters at the Burren.[2]

Dark War

Only weeks after the battle at the Burren, Helen was still staying with the Penhallows in Idris when the Los Angeles Institute was attacked by Sebastian. Only her younger siblings—with the exception of Mark—and Emma Carstairs were able to escape the attack, and it was up to Helen to care for them. They also learned that her father, Andrew, was Turned Endarkened, and Mark, who was not Turned as a result of his faerie heritage, was still captured for some reason; though it was later revealed to everyone that he was captured because of his fey heritage and given to the Wild Hunt as a gesture of goodwill from Sebastian to honor his alliance with the Seelie Queen and her Court.

Upon this realization, in addition to the information they received regarding the timing of Sebastian's attack on Alicante, the Clave prepared the city with elements to protect against the fey, such as cold iron and salt. Because Helen is part-faerie, she was also somewhat affected by these implements, though only slightly. Regardless, she still fought to protect her siblings and Emma while she accompanied them to the Accords Hall, where all of the Nephilim children in Idris were being hidden.

The next Council meeting, held three days after the battle was won, brought up the issue of what to do with Mark and Helen, both of whose loyalties are being questioned only because of their faerie heritage, as well as due to the paranoia following the revelation that Meliorn, also half-fey, could lie. Helen, being eighteen, would have been given permission to become her siblings' legal guardian if not for the circumstances; this was disregarded even further when her uncle Arthur arrived and accepted the position as head of the Institute and guardian of the Blackthorns.

Despite Helen's steadfast loyalty and devotion to both the Shadowhunters and her family, and due to the intense desire for vengeance against the fey and anyone with faerie blood, the majority of the Clave members still opted to punish her and her brother; Helen, found to be not needed with regards to raising her siblings, was exiled to Wrangel Island in the Arctic to study the wards indefinitely while the matter was further investigated, and the search to rescue Mark from the Wild Hunt was abandoned as well. Heartbroken, Helen was left with no choice but to accept and trust that her uncle Arthur would be able to care for her siblings. Before she left for Wrangel Island, she said her goodbyes to her siblings and Emma, and told her brother Jules to look after what remains of their family. Her girlfriend Aline also promised to follow her to Wrangel Island the following week, after the post-war Council meetings had commenced.[3]

In exile

Helen eventually proposed to Aline, and the pair became engaged. They planned to get married in Idris with their friends and families on the first of October in 2009. Aline's mother, being the Consul, made this possible by convincing the Clave to allow them to temporarily leave the island and stay in Idris for a whole day for their wedding. In exchange, Helen would be paraded around the Shadowhunter Academy as a lesson for their students against faeries. Helen agreed.

Upon her arrival at the Academy, she was greeted with disgust and contempt and fear, just as the Clave had hoped for. Helen was forced to tell the students the story—albeit a false one—of her parents, which she had also just found out—a story that also devastated her and made her momentarily doubt her nature. One of the students Simon Lewis, however, was more intimately familiar with Helen through Clary and did not despise her. Additionally, Isabelle had Helen fetch Simon for her, and Helen asked Catarina Loss to send Simon to her room. After a brief conversation with Simon, she sent the couple off to their date.[4]

Helen later returned to Idris, this time with Aline for their wedding. Their friends and family had arrived, and Helen's suggenes was Jules. After the ceremony, Simon came to hug her and passed on a message from Mark which brought her to tears.[5]

Helen was able to make the most out of her exile on Wrangel Island as she developed a genuine interest in the wards. With her determination and focus, she is well on her way to becoming one of the foremost experts onwards, and she hopes that her knowledge would convince the Clave to allow her to come home. Nonetheless, she continued to struggle with her separation from her family,[6] and though she remained in constant communication with them, Jules kept her oblivious to her younger siblings', particularly his, own struggles at the Institute.

Unable to return home still when Mark was returned to the Los Angeles Institute, Helen had to settle with speaking with him over the phone.[7]


In 2012, Helen and Aline detected when the former High Warlock of L.A. Malcolm Fade broke the wards of the L.A. Institute and immediately reported it to Jia. Around this time, they also saw the earliest signs of the Shadowhunter blight on the maps of Alicante, in the area of the Brocelind Forest, and informed Jia about it.

Knowing what they knew, Diana Wrayburn—the tutor of Helen's younger siblings—plotted with Jia to have Helen and Aline present at the Council meeting that would discuss the blight and potentially present themselves as the new heads of the Los Angeles Institute, a position that was vacated by Arthur's death. While Jia could not even consider it because of the complications of Portal travel to and from Wrangel Island, Diana found a way, allowing Helen to reunite with her siblings. At the meeting, Helen was unable to get to her younger sister Livvy in time to stop Annabel from killing her.[8]

Personality and traits

Helen is a kind, compassionate, and loving person, as well as loyal and responsible. Helen considers others, even those she does not know, in her decisions.

Physical description

Helen Blackthorn is pale, beautiful, and petite, with her faerie blood contributing to her loveliness. She has pale, white-gold hair that falls in ringlets and is often tucked back to show off her pointed ears. She also has the trademark blue-green eyes of her family.

Skills and abilities

  • Nephilim physiology: Being Nephilim, Helen possesses a variety of enhanced physical and mental abilities granted to her by the angel blood of Raziel in her veins and also by the angelic Marks of the Gray Book. This includes enhanced strength, speed, agility, stamina, and coordination, which continue to improve over time and practice.
    • The Sight: As a Shadowhunter (and half-faerie), Helen is naturally and easily able to see through most magical illusions and layers of glamour over reality.
    • Runic magic: Due to the angel blood in their veins, all Shadowhunters are able to apply runes on their skin without any real danger. These Marks, in turn, give varied effects that serve to benefit the wearer.
    • Use of heavenly weapons: As a Shadowhunter, Helen is also able to perform tasks unique to their species, such as the ability to use and call on the power of angels for their seraph blades, as well as to handle any heavenly weapons or objects with effect, which would normally not work for other species. In particular, these are tools made of adamas and forged by Iron Sisters.

  • Enhanced hearing: Because of her faerie blood, Helen should have better sense of hearing than others, though not as much as that of a pure faerie, but would compare when aided by Shadowhunter runes.[8]
  • Immunity to fey weaknesses: Though she is part-faerie, things that affect and weaken other fey do not harm her, such as her faerie name, rowan wood, and pure iron.[8]



Tarot Runes 8

Aline Penhallow is Helen's wife. Months into their relationship, the pair was already committed enough that they exchanged family rings—a pretty serious gesture between Shadowhunters, similar to mundane engagements. When Helen was exiled to Wrangel Island, Aline followed, and Helen soon proposed.

Tarot Rings 5

Helen, being the eldest of seven children, Helen grew responsible for her siblings, five of them her half-siblings, and loved them nonetheless. She seemingly has a good relationship with all of them and deeply cares about them. When it was decided that she would be exiled and would be separated from them, she was incredibly heartbroken and terrified at the prospect of leaving them.

Though Jules was only twelve at the time she was forced to leave, she trusted him to look after the others, being the eldest left as even Mark was absent and stuck with the Wild Hunt. She specifically asked him to pay special attention to Ty.

Andrew is Helen's father who raised her and Mark as Shadowhunters at the Institute despite their heritage. When she learned of the news that the Institute was attacked, and that her father was Turned into an Endarkened, she was horrified, even more so after he was later killed in Idris by no other than her younger brother, Jules. Helen and her siblings mourned their father's death.

Arthur, Helen's uncle, became the new head of the Institute and the guardians of her siblings and Emma after the events of the Dark War. Helen was then forced to trust that he would take care of her younger siblings, and believed that he seemed like a nice enough man.


Helen is good friends with Alec, and the pair became acquainted through Aline, who is childhood friends with the Lightwoods.

Alec voted against sending her away to Wrangel Island to study the wards along with a few of the Council members.

Emma is a family friend of the Blackthorns and Jules's best friend. Helen seems to care for Emma just as much as her siblings.

When Emma's parents died, it had been Helen who broke the news to her and witnessed her break down. Helen was very concerned and tried to console her.




Following the family tradition of Greek, and Latin, names, Andrew named Helen after Helen of Troy.[9]


  • Helen, like her brother and most other faeries, is bisexual.[10]
  • Her weapon of choice is seraph blades.[6]
  • Helen's true age, including the time she spent in Faerie with Mark, is unknown. Their starting age since joining the human world was a guesstimate by Andrew, who made up their designated birthdays for celebration purposes.
    • Their birthdays may eventually be revealed "if they meet someone who could tell them."[11]
  • Helen was in the middle of her travel year in The Red Scrolls of Magic. Because she was set to continue with her travels then return to Los Angeles afterwards, with Aline Penhallow returning to Alicante, she and Aline would spend some time after first getting together apart,[12] prompting the pair to start writing each other love letters.[13][12]


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