About Karen

Long before she became a bestselling novelist, Karen was helping writers hone their craft and navigate the business side of traditional publishing.

Read about her publishing journey below.

My 20-Year Journey to Bestselling Author

In 2004, I co-founded Backspace, an online community of writers dedicated to helping one another reach our publishing goals which quickly grew to over 1,000 members in a dozen countries.

Over the next 12 years, I organized the Backspace Writers conferences in New York City and the Salt Cay Writers retreats in The Bahamas, and served as managing editor of the International Thriller Writers’ monthly e-zine, and on their board of directors.

During this time, I published two thrillers with a major publisher and wrote a tie-in novel for a television show. While these books saw modest success, my writing career didn’t take off as I had hoped. 

In 2015, I wrote my first psychological suspense. The Marsh King’s Daughter sold the following year to G.P. Putnam’s Sons in a 12-way auction and has since been published in 27 additional languages. The Marsh King’s Daughter became a bestseller in multiple countries and will be released in 2022 as a major motion picture starring Daisy Ridley and Ben Mendelsohn.

My second psychological suspense, The Wicked Sister, was also an international bestseller and was chosen by Publishers Weekly as one of the best thrillers of the year. Clearly, I should have been writing psychological suspense all along!

I love sharing what I learned from my publishing journey at writers conferences, high schools, and universities. If you are interested in having me speak at your event, click the Contact page for details.

Karen also co-hosts a twice-monthly online authors series, The Back Room, which uses a unique and innovative format. Each event starts with a short introduction to a panel of 4 authors. The audience is then divided into 4 Zoom breakout rooms where they remain for the rest of the program while the authors visit each room in turn. Everyone’s video is turned on and their mics are unmuted, allowing for informal, face-to-face discussion. Click on the photo to see the upcoming schedule!

“This is beyond doubt my favorite virtual forum. It’s so great to see and interact with readers in the breakout rooms.” – #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner
Karen enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband on a small lake surrounded by forest in the middle of Michigan. Click on the photo to see more of her favorites!

History & Inspiration

In 1974, Karen and her husband moved from Detroit to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness with their 6-week-old daughter, where they lived in a tent while they built a cabin from reclaimed materials, carried water from a stream, and sampled wild foods such as cattail roots and milkweed pods.

Karen’s homesteading experiences inspire her novels featuring strong female characters facing overwhelming odds in wilderness locations.

The Marsh King's Daughter

In a rave review, The New York Times Book Review said of Karen’s debut psychological suspense, “Subtle, brilliant and mature . . . In its balance of emotional patience and chapter-by-chapter suspense, ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ is about as good as a thriller can be.”

Soon to be a major motion picture!

The Wicked Sister

Don’t miss Karen’s newest novel, The Wicked Sister, now an international bestseller and chosen as one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2020! 

She thought she’d buried her past. But what if it’s been hunting her this whole time?

And if she didn’t accidentally shoot and kill her parents, then who did?


Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2020

Library of Michigan 2021 Notable Book

U.P. Notable Book

Library of Michigan 2018 Michigan Notable Book

Deadly Pleasures Magazine Barry Award, Best Novel 

Suspense Magazine Crimson Scribe Award, Best Novel of 2017

Crime Writers of North America Dashiell Hammett Prize (finalist)

Midwest Independent Booksellers Choice Award (finalist)

Mystery Readers International Macavity Award, Best Novel (nominated)

Salt Lake County Library Reader’s Choice Award (nominated)

iBooks – Favorites of 2017 

Hudson Booksellers – Best Books of 2017

Powell’s – Staff Top Fives of 2017

Library Journal – Best Thrillers of 2017

Shelf Awareness – Best Books of 2017

South Florida Sun-Sentinel – Best mystery novels of 2017

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – Best Books of 2017

Irish Independent – Books of the Year Part 1

Bookpage – The 10 Best Audiobooks of 2017

The Morning Sun – Bestselling Books of 2017 by Michigan Authors (#1)

Eastern Norway Post – Best Books of 2017

Aunt Agathas Bookstore – Ann Arbor, Michigan Best of 2017

Murder by the Books – Houston, Texas – Best Books of 2017

Mystery by the Book – Portland, Oregon – Best Books of 2017

Saturn Booksellers – Gaylord, Michigan – Top 10 Best Books of 2017

Bookshop Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz, California – Best Fiction Books of 2017

Writer’s Block Bookstore – Winter Park, Florida – Best Books of 2017

McLean & Eakin – Petoskey, Michigan – Top Ten Fiction Bestsellers of 2017

Lisa Gardner – Favorite thriller of 2017

Joseph Finder – Top Picks from 2017

Gillian McAllister – Best Books of 2017

Clare Mackintosh – What Authors Recommend 2017, Part 1

Laura Marshall – What Authors Recommend 2017, Part 4

Kalamazoo Public Library – Staff Picks: Best of 2017

Cook County Memorial Library – Favorite Fiction of 2017

Multnomah County Library – Best Books of 2017

Vernon Area Public Library – 2017 Staff Picks

Jessica T.  – #libfaves17

Loud Library Lady – Most Memorable Books of 2017

Capital Area District Libraries – 2017 Year End Staff Picks

BOLO books blog – Best of 2017

Hungry for Good Books – Best novel of 2017

Reading Between the Pages – Top Ten of 2017

Crime Time (UK) – Jake Kerridge, The Daily Telegraph – Best of 2017

Crime Fiction Lover (UK) – Five Best Debuts of 2017

The Belgian Reviewer – Top Ten of 2017

Texas Girl Reads – Favorites of 2017

Pups_Pints_Pages – Top Five of 2017

The Misstery – Favorite Books of 2017, Top Psychological Thriller

If Only I Could Read Faster (UK) – Best Books of 2017

Escape from the ER – Top 3 of 2017 #R3COMM3ND3D2017

AuntieEmWrites – Best Reads of 2017

Dee’s Rad Reads – Top Ten of 2017

Jessicamap Reviews – Top Reads for 2017

Karen loves meeting with book clubs! 

Is your club reading one of Karen’s novels? Write to her at karen@karen-dionne.com to make arrangements for an online visit! You can also download discussion questions below.

“Thank you so very much for joining us! We were in absolute book group heaven this morning! It was such a pleasure to meet you and an incredible experience to hear you talk about your wonderful book.”

— Bloomfield Hills Book Club
Bloomfield Hills Michigan Book Club

Copyright © 2022 Karen Dionne - All Rights Reserved