InsideODU: News for Faculty and Staff
Thursday, January 17, 2013


Hennelly's Dream Fund Winnings Lead to Publication of First Novel

Using the adage write what you know, Old Dominion administrator Dan Hennelly set his first novel, a murder mystery titled "Fatal Knowledge," on a college campus.

With fictional Chesapeake Bay University as his backdrop, the story follows history professor and amateur detective Andrew Stanard as he sets about solving the murder of graduate student Jenny Biggio. With more than 30 years of study and work in higher education, Hennelly drew on his many experiences - and a few familiar ODU traditions - in creating the whodunit.

Hennelly, academic services analyst with the Office of Academic Affairs, was the recipient of a $1,600 grant last summer from the university's Staff Dream Fund. The grant allowed him to use iUniverse, a print-on-demand publisher based in Bloomington, Ind., to self-publish "Fatal Knowledge." Readers can purchase the book through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

The ODU Staff Dream Fund was established in 2008 to help deserving employees realize a long-held dream. The endowed fund provides monetary awards and up to five days of paid time off for staff members to fulfill their dream - pursuing studies in an area unrelated to work, traveling to another country or visiting family far away, for example.

"Drawing on more 20 years of working in higher education, I began developing the setting of fictional Chesapeake Bay University and the cast of characters that populate 'Fatal Knowledge,'" Hennelly said. "My wife was a college librarian, recently retired from Tidewater Community College, so it was only natural that a pivotal chapter is set in the campus library."

Hennelly has always enjoyed writing, but was spurred to follow his dream to craft a novel after his father received a package unexpectedly in the mail a few years back.

"His late cousin, a Catholic priest, had written a novel to occupy himself while he was undergoing treatments for lymphoma that eventually took his life," he said.

The late relative's novel was drawn from his boyhood in Massachusetts and his career as a U.S. Navy chaplain. A friend sent copies of his unpublished novel to his close friends and family after his death. It was a dose of reality for Hennelly.

"It struck me then: Why should one wait until you're dying to fulfill your dreams? In the summer of 2000, I began writing a science fiction saga. My ambition was not to write the great American novel. I just wanted to write a book that someone would enjoy reading on the beach."

The science fiction book wasn't picked up in the hyper-competitive publishing industry, so Hennelly began writing what became "Fatal Knowledge" in 2007.

Hennelly describes "Fatal Knowledge" as a "cozy mystery," akin to Agatha Christie's Miss Marple series. His protagonist, amateur detective Andrew Stanard, stumbles before he finds his footing and solves the murder of CBU graduate student Jenny Biggio.

"Thanks to the ODU Dream Fund I was able to achieve my goal of becoming a published author," Hennelly said.

"Fatal Knowledge" is available for sale at the University Village Bookstore. To purchase the book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, go to or .

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