Killavullen translates from the Irish, `Cill an Mhuilin’, as `the church of the mill’.

The village sits astride the Blackwater and, in this area, the high gorges created by the river are lined with castellated houses. While some of these have fallen into ruin, some are still intact and lend the village a unique sense of heritage.

Notable residents of Killavullen and its surrounds include the Hennessy family (famed for their production of Hennessy cognac) of Ballymacmoy House. Edmund Burke, the Irish statesman and philosopher, received some of his early education in the area.