You have to use html tags.
You could also write your css file and add it to animate.
Example: load css in stage/creationComplete
Not sure why but I can't get the pseudo first letter to work while other css properties work when I load the css on the stage with code above.
I will test some more later.
I did some more searching and found that first-letter only works on block elements, but I am sure how make the text element a inline-block as the link suggested. http://stackoverflow.com/questions/7631722/css-first-letter-not-working.