We study analytically the dynamics of cavity QED nodes in a practical quantum network. Given a single 3-level $\Lambda$-type atom or quantum dot coupled to a micro-cavity, we derive several necessary and sufficient criteria for the coherent trapping and generation of a single photon pulse with a given waveform to be realizable. We prove that these processes can be performed with practical hardware -- such as cavity QED systems which are operating deep in the weak coupling regime -- given a set of restrictions on the single-photon pulse envelope. We systematically study the effects of spontaneous emission and spurious cavity decay on the transfer efficiency, including the case where more than one excited state participates in the dynamics. This work should open the way to very efficient optimizations of the operation of quantum networks.