I think this story is a fairy tale – it almost seems like metafiction. Metafiction is where the author draws attention in the actual story to the fact that the story is fictional and made up. I believe that it drifts into metafiction when Valente describes the heroine’s journey.
A heroine steps in, and sees a wickedness in need of solving—but she is never the first, or the last. She plays her part, blessedly and necessarily innocent of that fat old cat sneaking around the borders of her tale, licking its paws while she bleeds and fights, whipping its tail at her trials and yawning at her triumphs. The cat does not care. It has seen all this before and will see it again.
Valente is describing what happens in a typical heroine’s journey in a fairy tale, then goes on to tell the tale of Mallow. Valente ends this quote with “It has seen all this before and will see it again” alludes to us as fairy tale readers seeing these types of journeys and archetypes in fairy tales that we have seen time and time again.