In this paper the interactions between component failures are quantified and the interaction matrix and interaction network are obtained. The quantified interactions can capture the general propagation patterns of the cascades from utilities or simulation, thus helping to better understand how cascading failures propagate and to identify key links and key components that are crucial for cascading failure propagation. By utilizing these interactions a high-level probabilistic model called interaction model is proposed to study the influence of interactions on cascading failure risk and to support online decision-making. It is much more time efficient to first quantify the interactions between component failures with fewer original cascades from a more detailed cascading failure model and then perform the interaction model simulation than it is to directly simulate a large number of cascades with a more detailed model. Interaction-based mitigation measures are suggested to mitigate cascading failure risk by weakening key links, which can be achieved in real systems by wide area protection such as blocking of some specific protective relays. The proposed interaction quantifying method and interaction model are validated with line outage data generated by the AC OPA cascading simulations on the IEEE 118-bus system.