Get to Know an Agent in Attendance: Melanie Castillo of Root Literary

Screen Shot 2020-01-21 at 3.57.47 PMMelanie Castillo is a literary agent with Root Literary.

“I want to work with the kind of stories that both create and sustain life-long readers—books that make me sigh with contentment, learn something new, or take delight in the unexpected. Those stories stay with you, and they’re a gift I want to help give readers by lifting up the voices of talented and hard-working creatives.”

“I’m actively looking for fiction and narrative nonfiction. I’m especially excited to find high-concept commercial and literary leaning general fiction, young adult novels with a strong voice and propulsive pacing, and heartfelt and humorous middle grade novels across genres. I was born and raised in Southern California in a multi-cultural, blended family, so I have a soft spot for books that shine a spotlight on the nuances of family relationships and identity. In all cases—no matter what genre you’re writing in—I want to read books that are inclusive and that accurately reflect our world. I like characters who aren’t your typical lead and to be surprised by the unexpected.”

She is seeking:


-Upmarket fiction with elements of mystery/suspense in the vein of Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU and Angie Kim’s MIRACLE CREEK.

-Basically any commercial fiction that could sit on a shelf next to Blake Crouch or Michael Crichton.

-Beautifully-written, well-researched, and expansive adult fiction that straddles the line between commercial and literary. A recent example is Madeline Miller’s CIRCE, but Barbara Kingsolver’s THE POISONWOOD BIBLE is a tried-and-true favorite. I’d also add anything that feels like a modern-day EAST OF EDEN.


-Stealing a phrase jointly coined by my colleagues Holly Root and Molly O’Neill—I’d love a YA SFF or HF that can be summed up as “feelings while running.” There’s page-turning action and adventure, but there’s also an emotional undercurrent that carries through to those last pages.

-A slow burn romance (contemporary, rom-com, and fantasy).


-Heartwarming and adventurous contemporary middle-grade fiction. I especially love books that manage to be timeless while oh so subtly touching on timely topics in a way that doesn’t feel didactic. I find most of what I read in this space is in that sweet spot between literary and commercial (a trend you may be noticing here). A recent example is Root Literary author Lynne Kelly’s SONG FOR A WHALE.

-A darker fantasy (standalone or series) that feels reminiscent of Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS or Jim Henson’s THE DARK CRYSTAL. Both of these series, despite their different mediums, are epic in scope but so immersive, character-driven, and awe-inspiring that it never feels like work for the audience—instead, around every corner is another surprise.

-I’m constantly on the lookout for anything that reads like a Studio Ghibli film in both MG and YA (I love them all—especially Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and Howl’s Moving Castle).


Literary agent Holly Root launched over two dozen New York Times bestsellers before founding Root Literary in 2017. The agency’s clients benefit from our agents’ proven skills in identifying talent, negotiating advantageous deals, and advocating for our books all the way from submission to publication. We offer our clients broad-based industry insights as well as individualized strategic thinking to empower each author to define and pursue their own unique path to success.

We love what we do, and we do it best in partnership with authors who combine skillful storytelling with the drive to build a lasting body of work.

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