ATLANTA -- The whole sad saga of Vicki Long and the archbishop can be summed up by the front-page headlines:

Aug. 2: "Marino quit over love affair: Ex-archbishop was involved with woman until recently."

Aug. 5: "Another priest admits having affair with Vicki Long."

Aug. 7: "Vicki Long described as ambitious, a loner."

Aug. 8: "Seduced by a nun, Long says."

Aug. 10: "Vicki Long has a talk with Oprah."

It's a well-trodden route to celebrity: from shame to fame, from anonymity to Oprah, all in a matter of days.

Those titillating headlines, by the way, are from the respectable Atlanta Journal-Constitution, not the National Enquirer, although the Enquirer wades into the muddle in its current edition with an exclusive, full-page interview with Long. The headline on that story: "Archbishop scandal that rocked the nation -- the shocking inside story."

The celebrity in this scandal du jour is Vicki R. Long, a 27-year-old sometime singer and regular churchgoer who had what the Roman Catholic Church here delicately calls "an intimate relationship" with Atlanta's former archbishop, the popular Eugene A. Marino.

Marino, 56, the nation's first black Roman Catholic archbishop and formerly an auxiliary bishop in Washington, resigned in July, ostensibly for health reasons.

Early this month, the archdiocese confirmed media reports that he stepped down largely because the Catholic Church had learned of his two-year affair with Long.

Almost every day for more than a week after the affair became public, the story took astounding twists.

It was old news in Atlanta that Long had filed an unsettled 1987 paternity suit against the Rev. Donal Keohane, formerly of Columbus, Ga. (Blood tests back Keohane's claim that he is not the father of Long's 4-year-old daughter, LaDonna.)

But it turned out that Long also had an affair with the Rev. Michael Woods, former pastor of her church in Hapeville, Ga. (He says it was sexual; she says it wasn't.)

She told a local TV station that Marino married her one day in New York (The archdiocese denies it.)

It was further disclosed that Long says her problems with the clergy began at age 19, when a nun seduced her. In fact, Long says her affair with Keohane started when she sought help from him to ease her distress over the relationship with the nun.

With each revelation about Long, with each new embarrassment for the church, Long's media value has risen.

MGM-United Artists has expressed interest in a TV movie. Penthouse and Playboy magazines have reportedly come courting. Last week, Long visited Oprah Winfrey in Chicago, though accounts vary as to why: to discuss a TV appearance, to discuss movie rights, to seek counseling.

Whatever the reason, Atlanta TV news crews, which had been tipped off to Long's trip the night before, chased her through the Atlanta airport, then O'Hare, then the streets of Chicago. During one of the airport chases, she smiled at her pursuers but put a blanket over her daughter's head.

Like other women whose lives and loves have been laid bare by scandal -- Marla Maples, Jessica Hahn, Donna Rice, to name a recent few -- Vicki Long seems sometimes a vixen, sometimes a victim.

Anthony Fontana, a Louisiana lawyer who specializes in sex-abuse cases against clergy within the Catholic Church, claims she was abused. He says Long went to Marino for counseling after the archbishop expressed his desire to help victims of sexual abuse. Marino then manipulated her into an affair, Fontana says.

"Once the facts come out, the public will know . . . grown women can suffer sexual abuse even in a relationship not termed to be perverse," Fontana said last week. He calls the case a women's-rights issue.

Besieged by the press, however, Fontana gave up the case after barely a week on the job.

"The {media} thirst for a picture and a statement is just so great that I couldn't get any work done," he said this week from his office in Abbeville, La.

Whatever public sympathy Long might have engendered early on has quickly fizzled. Despite declining a multitude of interview requests, she has greeted the attention with what strikes many as an indecorous relish. When an Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer asked to take her picture, she agreed -- if she could change her clothes. She also asked if the pictures would be in color.

Long is a slender, poised, pretty woman with a baby-doll voice and wide eyes. She grew up in Columbus, Ga., the daughter of a police officer and a Coca-Cola bottle inspector. Raised as a Baptist, she converted to Catholicism. One church official has described her as a "kind of Catholic camp follower."

In 1979, seeking training as an actress and singer, Long enrolled at the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm and Self-Development in Columbus. She eventually recorded a song, "I Just Can't Decide."

In June, Long spent several days in a psychiatric institute near Atlanta. Her hospital roommate and the roommate's mother, who declined to be identified, had kind words for her in interviews with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "She's an empathetic, hurting, sweet person," the mother said.

Long has threatened to sue the Atlanta archdiocese for compensation in the Marino affair. In the meantime, it's unclear how she pays her bills.

The archdiocese acknowledges it has given her what it calls "charity" money. WAGA-TV alleged that Marino gave her $1,500 a month, the equivalent of his monthly salary, and helped her buy a house. She apparently has not worked in four years.

Enquirer Editor Iain Calder speculates that she thought an interview might attract the attention of influential Hollywood producers. "She told our reporter she wants to do a movie about her life," Calder said. "She wants to play herself."

By midweek last week, Long had checked into an Atlanta hospital, complaining of abdominal pains.

Late in the week, after weeks of seclusion, Marino reportedly was taken to a psychiatric treatment facility.