A life-long Ohioan, Karen was born in Toledo, Ohio. Her father was a designing engineer and her mother an elementary school teacher. She credits the women in her family with her early love of reading and telling stories: her mother and both her grandmothers were great readers and family historians.
Karen majored in English and Education at Ohio University and then attended graduate school at The Ohio State University. She specialized in early English literature and wrote her master’s thesis on the Shakespeare play All’s Well That Ends Well. Living in Columbus since 1967, Karen taught Brit Lit and composition at Whetstone High School and ofr 10 years, she was English department chair and teacher at Westerville North High School, where she was an advisor for the creative writing magazine.
First published in 1982, Karen left teaching to write full time in 1984. Karen and her husband Don have made many trips to the British Isles to research her historical novels. England and Scotland are her “favorite places on the planet.”
Besides historical novels, Karen also writes contemporary suspense novels which have been on the USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller lists. She is the winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award for her Amish-set novel, Dark Angel. Her work has been translated into foreign languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish.
Harper’s historical novels include Shakespeare's Mistress, The Queen’s Governess, The Last Boleyn, The First Princess of Wales, The Irish Princess and The Queen's Confidante. Library Journal says of Harper's historicals, "As good as the best of Philippa Gregory...sure to be a big hit with historical fiction fans and book clubs."