Ask the Author: Kataneh Vahdani

What would you like readers to know about you? 

I was born and grew up in Iran. I got a chance to come to America in 2000. A country where I can feel free as a woman and have a voice. I have my degree in Mathematics but later in life, I wanted to follow my passion, Visual Storytelling. 

I started my journey at a young age at CALARTS (CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF THE ARTS). I studied animation for 7 years and earned my Masters degree from this wonderful school. 

Looking back, I remember when I was in Iran, I was told as a woman my chances to have a successful career especially in art is very slim. But I had a dream and today I feel blessed that I can have a platform to share stories that can hopefully inspire others. My goal is to also open doors for those dreamers who have wings and want to fly but they are told otherwise. 


What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
“Kat and Juju” is a journey about an unlikely duo. The story of the first book in the series is about being different, finding courage and our inner strength to face our fears, and the importance of friendship.

What has been your inspiration for writing it? 

Years ago I was going through a very dark time and I didn’t know how to move on. I kept doubting myself and the weight of all my fears were stopping me to be fully myself.  

But then one day a baby bird came to my life and changed everything. My Juju! (Which means baby bird in my native language, Farsi).  

I learned how to love unconditionally and find my inner strength to face my fears and I decided to share the story and the lesson I learned with the world. 

I believe we are braver and stronger than we think, we just sometimes don’t know our true strength. If we don’t address and face our childhood fears that somehow were planted in us, later on in life, these fears can block us to reach our full potential.  


What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write? 

I love the scene when Kat with the help of Juju faces her fear and believes in herself. 


What books or authors inspired you to become a writer? 

 Shel Silverstein: He is one of my favorite authors and illustrators who inspired me from early age. 

 Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: I love the original story of “The little Prince”/”Le Petit Prince” written by this wonderful author. 

–  Richard Bach:  “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” is one of my favorite books. 

– “Goodbye Picasso” by David Douglas Duncan is an important book that shaped my creative process from a very young age. 


What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book? 

I always tell my students and aspiring authors to stay true to yourself and tell authentic stories. Give your story a heartbeat so the readers can feel it and connect to your characters.  

Do not reach for perfection and do not compare yourself to other successful writers and do not write a story based on books that are trending. Be yourself and figure out what you want to say and how you can hopefully inspire others. 

Believe in your ability, open your wings and fly high like a bird  



Instagram: @KatandJuju 

Facebook: Kataneh Vahdani and Kat Juju 

Page on Facebook: Kat and Juju 

Twitter: @KatanehV and @KatandJujuLove 



Kataneh Vahdani is a director, animation creator, storyteller and a professor. She was born in Iran but came to the United States in pursuit of her dream: to have a voice and be free. After receiving a degree in mathematics, she enrolled at California Institute of the Arts, spending seven years studying animation and earning her master’s degree. She later continued her education in Paris, France. Kataneh’s animated films have been screened at many festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival, where she was named Best Director of Animated Shorts. She worked for many years in the story department at Walt Disney Animation Studios and also taught story, design, and animation at CalArts and College of the Canyons. Kataneh is currently directing an animated feature. In 2020 Kataneh’s first picture book of her book series, ” Kat and Juju” is being published. For more updates, follow @KatandJuju on Instagram and follow her at @katanehv on Twitter. 

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