Books have always been a lifeline for me; a place I went to escape, to learn, to feel. My childhood was filled with glorious books: Little Women, Lad: A Dog, Black Beauty, Little House on the Prairie, Caddie Woodlawn. They were as real to me as the life around me, a lower-middle-class one in a small oil refinery town in Texas. I was the aftermath of a world war, the nation moving from its rural roots to the cities, and the GI Bill. My father was a merchant marine, and we settled near the Port of Houston. And I read, read when I was sad, read when I was glad, read when I didn’t understand my friends, read when I didn’t fit in.

“Karleen, get your head out of that book.” If I heard it once, I heard it a million times. But books fed my soul and my mind and my heart. When life around me was dull or incomprehensible, there was always a book, another place and time to wander in, adventures someone else had that I could share.

My grandfather, an invalid, was a huge fan of the writers Frank Slaughter, Frank Yerby, and Zane Grey. By the time I learned to read, I was sneaking Grandfather’s square, cheap (a dime, I think) paperbacks and reading them. Pirates. Passion. History. More interesting than the Dick and Jane readers assigned in school, though I gobbled those up, too. If it was printed, I was reading it.

I never imagined I’d be a writer, but all my life I’ve made my living that way not only in fiction, but by working for local magazines and specialty news periodicals. I’ve written brochures, poster copy, web zine copy, annual reports, press releases, you name it. And, of course, historical novels.

My first novel was written to deal with a heartbreak in my life (not the one in the novel), and I wrapped it around the South Sea Bubble, which was a Great Depression of its time. My second was written to see if I could write another novel and continued the story of the first, but branching off into Virginia and the ugliness of slavery. (I’m more interested in European history than American. American is so. . .well. . .male.) The third happened because I was (and still am) teaching a continuing education course at Rice University on the basics of the novel while I was working full-time for the University of Houston in their publications department. I decided I needed to work actively on a novel, rather than resting on past laurels, to better understand where students were in their process.

My fourth, Before Versailles, published by Crown in May 2011, is a lost but true story set in the court of Louis XIV, the lion of the seventeenth century. It’s a story I’ve been trying to frame for years. Louis XIV is one of those historical figures who intrigue me.

It has never occurred to me to write anything but historicals, though those who live with me through the process have suggested for their own sanity that I write something easier and shorter. I think I’ll have to blame it all on Granddad. I can just see him now in the open breezeway of the old house he lived in, cheap paperbook in hand, whiling away the time an invalid has on his hands

I never dreamed I’d be a writer, but my life has been blessed by them. Thank you Frank, thank you Zane, thank you Louisa, thank you Albert, thank you Anna, thank you Laura, thank you Carol and so many others who have given me such a full inner life.


37 responses to “About

  1. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy “Through a Glass Darkly” again and again. I am reading it again now – I forget how many times I have read it but I think I am into double figures.

    I think that this book would make an incredible movie – either unedited on the TV – the BBC did “Pride and Prejudice” really well – or shortened on the big screen; bold and vivid. Please tell me that you have considered this?

    I would love to hear from you


  2. I know this is a terrible question to ask but…is there even an inkling of an idea as to when the next book will be done/released? I was born in ’86 and the idea that in my entire life you wrote three books I read in one month worries me…I don’t want to wait until I’m 30 for the next one 😦

  3. Oh, Iraida,

    What a question you raise. I am an incredibly slow writer….usually because I am doing other things than writing. There is a blog entry called Psychic Order. If you’ll read that, I explain in more detail about writer’s block and giving up on writing.

    I’m faster now because I am no longer fighting being a novelist. Actually, I am nearly finished with another novel, but it isn’t sold. And it doesn’t continue any story, but branches off to a Louis XIV story I am really interested in (again, more explained in that blog entry).

    So sorry to be so much trouble…..but I am glad you have enjoyed the stories…..Karleen Koen

  4. Thats wonderful! I absolutely love your writing style and know I will enjoy it 😀

  5. I’m 17 years old and i am in love with your books. while reading them i found myself staying up until three in the morning because i couldn’t bear to put it down. your books make me wish that i one of the characters, makes me want to be from their century and want to live their lives. i can’t wait for your fourth book to be released, but until then i will continue to live vicariously through Lady Devane.

  6. i am 23 and just stumbled onto your sight via google as I have been looking for info about madame du barry. I absolutely looove European history, more specifically women of European history. May I ask, what prompted you to begin writing? Is it something that just came naturally to you?

  7. Like you, I always loved to read about the women who made European history. As for writing, it’s a talent I’ve always possessed. Before writing novels, I had a career in local magazines. I’ve just always made my living writing in some kind of way. As I work to finish a fourth novel (you’ll love the women in this one), I wonder about “natural.” Writing is hard work for me.
    Thanks for your interest…..Karleen

  8. Dear Karleen,
    Oh my gosh…it was like Christmas today. I was at Borders and found your “Through a Glass Darkly” and bought it again. I read it in 1986 and told my Sister if there ever was a book that lent itself to a sequel…it was this one. I looked for years and then finally gave up. As I look in the cover of “….Darkly”, I was so EXCITED that you Did write the sequel …and then the prequel.
    I rushed home to begin the journey again with Barbara….and on to the 2nd and 3rd books.
    Thank you so much for these gifts….I am a student of English History and love that you allow to me live in the ages albeit for just awhile.
    Like your younger readers I am sorry that I only saw 3 books to date (I am 55)…..I look to forward to living in the court of Louis XIV…and hopfully more over the years.

  9. I stumbled upon “Through a Glass Darkly” on my mother’s bookshelf years ago, and then waited anxiously for the sequel. Later, I was thrilled to read “Dark Angels”, and I write begging you to continue the story of Alice and Richard. These three novels are among the best books I’ve ever read…thank you for such a brilliant story that I can’t get out of my head.

  10. Hello,

    I am so thrilled to hear that your are working on another novel. Will Barbara and the Duchess, Alice, be in this novel as well? When do you think the new novel will come out?

    I read ” Through A Glass Darkly”when it first came out. It was one of the many books I treasured and refused to part with, regardless of how many times I moved.

    I just recently reread “Darkly”, after reading Now Face to Face” and “Dark Angels”. I was so disappointed when I finished reading all three. Your novels are so well written and engrossing- I am always transported to the time and place where the stories are set. I hate returning to present day!

    What authors do you enjoy reading? Also, where did you fine the information on the gardening practices of the 1700’s?


  11. Karleen,
    I just finished Now, Face to Face last evening and I’m so depressed that it’s over. Thank you for providing us with such a vivid, beautifully written story. I feel bereft without these characters that I’ve come to know so well and beg you to write another that picks up where this left off. What happens to Barbara in France? Will she ever have a baby? Will she learn that Hyacinth lives? Will Therese move to France to open up her dress shop? So many questions…. so sad they won’t be answered.

  12. I just wanted to add my voice to this chorus of readers who find your work incredible. Your three books are the best historical fiction I have read. I find myself constantly comparing other works I read to yours, looking always for the next book that will speak to me the way yours do. I cannot wait for your next work to be published. Happy holidays!

  13. Denisa Gressett Burnham

    Hey Karleen,

    Hope all is well in your world! Would love to have lunch? Don’t you love the internet!!! Birdsnb @aol.com

  14. hello, I have to know what happens to everyone!!!! I have read these three books over and over. I read looking glass years ago and then face to face. I found Dark angels only a while ago this is great now we know the begining of that story but, What happens in France? You must write the books and tell me, please hurry I cant leave these people just on their way to France and not know the rest of the story, I know the story is in your head just waiting for paper

  15. I just wanted to say, I have read all of your books and I love them! And I have to back Genia up- we need to know what happens in France! Does Hyacinthe go over? Is Barbara finally happy, will she have a baby??? I hope that you are planning on writing another book. I’ll be looking forward to it!

    Thanks for such a wonderful reading experience.

  16. Hi Karleen,

    I just discovered on Facebook, of all places, that you graduated from DPHS. A friend mentioned you as a celebrity alumni, so I googled you, because I graduated from DPHS, also, and I’m also writer, although not nearly as successful as you are.

    But what really surprised and excited me is finding out you wrote “Through a Glass Darkly.”

    I read that book back in the 80’s when I worked as a plant technician (operator) at one of the plants – a man I worked with loaned it to me – and although I, like you, have read more books than I can remember, this is one that has stuck in my mind because the story was so unique and the characters so strong (I also love the title!) I’m not surprised to hear that you followed up with a sequel and now a prequel.

    These days I don’t have the time I want to read for pleasure, but I’m now determined to find copies of all three to have on stand-by when things slow down a little for me. I’ll jump them to the front of the line.

    Thanks for writing!

    Barbara Shallue (DPHS ’77)

  17. Karleen,
    I just finished reading all 3 of your published books. They were so incredibly captivating and I enjoyed them thoroughly! I agree with everyone else when I say I hope you someday decide to continue Barbara’s story in France. I have never read another book and felt this sense of loss when the story was finished and the characters were no longer a part of my daily life. I find myself of wondering whether or not Barbara had a baby and what the homecoming for Hyacinth was like and whether or not Alice made it to France for Barbara’s wedding.
    Also like many other people on here, I think that PBS would do a wonderful job making these lovely stories into a lovely movie or movies. Have you considered this? I so enjoy their versions of Jane Austen’s novels and I think they could do an incredible job with yours as well.
    Thank you so much for writing and sharing these stories with us.
    -Amber Kramer

  18. Karleen,

    I just picked up the Darkly book this past Friday and I can’t put it down! Hours upon hours. I was pleased to find out you are local girl. I too have been obsessed with the Tudors, especially Elizabeth. Alison Weir recently did a book signing in Feb and it was like attending an AA meeting for English History Addicts. I think it would be fun for you to have a get together, maybe do a reading, and talk about your latest work-in-progress. Thanks for filling my boring evenings with passion and intrigue!


    • Hi, Lisa, Thanks for your comment. Was Alison Weir in Houston? If so, I hate that I missed her! When my last book came out, there were some local gatherings at bookstore.

      I’m nearly finished with a fourth. It goes off to my agent at the end of the month…….maybe there will be a little hoop-la locally…..my regards to you and thanks again for writing…..

      K A R L E E N K O E N Dark Angels * Now Face to Face * Through A Glass Darkly Website: http://www.karleenkoen.net Blog: https://karleenkoen.wordpress.com

  19. I have read all three of your books. I enjoyed each of them, probably Dark Angels being my favorite (as well as the one i read first). I am curious however: Why is it that only the young, virile and lovely characters die while the old and tired ones persist. I know that the real answer for this is,”C’est La Vie”, but I got tired of everyone dying. Also, will there be another book? Maybe one that ties up loose ends. History doesn’t end there, neither should Bab.I want my questions answere. What happens to Diana? What happens at Bab’s wedding? Does Hyacinthe see Bab again? Klaus and Williamsburg widow? Perry and Alice? I guess i’ll just have to make-up my own endings.

    • Dear Ellie,
      You ask a great question, and I guess my answer would be that it’s
      more effectively emotionally. If you’ll go to my website, in the
      signature below, I talk about my blog, and one of the ones mentioned
      talks about the order the books are coming to me, not chronologically
      unfortunately…………I just finished my fourth novel, a story
      about Louis XIV, that I’m sending off to my agent in New York at the
      end of the month……….

      Thank you for writing, and for your interest……..Karleen

      K A R L E E N K O E N
      Dark Angels * Now Face to Face * Through A Glass Darkly
      Website: http://www.karleenkoen.net
      Blog: https://karleenkoen.wordpress.com

  20. Karleen,

    I ditto everything posted here…you must write more and continue the story of Barbara…please 🙂
    I started reading historical fiction when my inlaws introduced me to the writings of Kenneth Roberts…that was over twenty years ago. I was delighted to find your novels, albeit somewhat late…”Now Face to Face” was in the “new” fiction section of my library (not exactly new). I then found “Through a Glass Darkly” in my favorite used book store…I will be looking for “Dark Angels” ASAP and anxiously await your Louis XIV novel.
    For others, who also enjoy your novels, I suggest they look for the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.

    Thanks for the wonderful stories…keep up the good work!


    • Dear Claire, Thanks for the kind words…….my website kinda/sorta explains where I am now……I’ll go to it next week and announce that I’m sending a fourth novel to my agent………I finally wrote the Louis XIV story……………my regards to you……Karleen

      K A R L E E N K O E N Dark Angels * Now Face to Face * Through A Glass Darkly Website: http://www.karleenkoen.net Blog: https://karleenkoen.wordpress.com

  21. Alison Weir was at the Houston Public Library downtown and I only discovered it by accident. Congrats on finishing the fourth book! I look forward to reading it and perhaps the shindig to celebrate your triumph 🙂

  22. Karleen,

    I’ve been a huge fan ever since I found Through a Glass Darkly in a mobile library during my late teens. I also loved the sequel, and look forward to reading Dark Angels.

    Just a few years ago, I undertook writing my own first novel, set in the medieval period. You are one of the few writers who trully inspired me go in the direction of historicals, and I mention your influence along with Philippa Gregory, Marilyn Harris, and Francine Rivers in my author bio. In fact, I toyed with naming my book These Three Remain, because I loved your titles so much. In the end, it didn’t capture the book well enough, so I’m now going with Dance of the Dandelion instead. We’ll see how the publishers like it.

    I read above that you are working on a new book set in the time of Louis XIV. I’m currently reading In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons. It’s told from the perspective of one of Louis’ many women, a huegonot trying to save her family through the bond of her former relationship with Louis. You should look into it. It may give you some inspiration.


  23. I absolutely love your books. I love the stories you tell and how you allow you characters to grown and evolve… to really live life and learn from their mistakes.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have read all three of your books. They are highlighted and worn out almost beyond recognition. There are so many quotes in them that inspire me… just as the characters inspire me.

    I am very excited to read that you have finished your new book. I cannot wait to read it. I am wondering if you think you will ever continue the story of Alice and Richard. I would love to find out how he became the Duke of Tamworth and know what happened to them in 1688 with King James II and Prince William of Orange. You hinted at it so much in Now Face to Face. I’m also interested in exploring the relationship between Alice and Diana as a child and learning about Kit and Diana. I know I want alot!! I just fell in love with all of the stories and characters… and the time period.

    Thanks so much for writing books that I love… books that keep me coming back to them again and again.

  24. I am a big fan of your work – and was so excited to read that you sent book IV off to the publisher in May. I guess that means another year or so wait though – which makes me feel like a pacing tiger. Looking forward to the new book’s release- and to reviewing it on my blog. Thanks for such wonderful reads!

  25. Whitney Millirons


    I have just finished “Now Face to Face” for the 9th, 10th, 11th time? I don’t know. I just discovered the chapter of Jane’s dying. “Through A Glass Darkly” caught me because I had such a similar relationship with my mother and grandmother as Barbara had with hers. Your writing is lyrical, stunning, and no matter how many times I read it, brings me to tears. I, too, can smell summer roses in my grandmother’s garden, the smell of absolute safety, of childhood. It is my one of my best hopes that you continue Barbara’s story, Hyacinthe’s story, Tim and Annie and Perryman. They have become dear friends, through your words, and have seen me through some difficult times. Thank you.

  26. Karleen,

    Add me to the list of “Through a Glass Darkly” devotees. I’ve read and re-read my tattered paperback so often that my book can now be considered “loose-leafed”.

    I was thrilled (yet appalled with myself for not knowing sooner) to learn that there are 3rd and 4th books. I will be logging into Amazon as soon as I’m finished here.

    Thank you for your wonderful story-telling!


    PS. Dare I ask if there will be a book following Tony’s life after Barbara’s departure??

  27. Barbara Gardner


    I must applaud your ability to keep me in suspense: it is a continual ritual of mine, spanning 24 (?) years, to ask librarians and book store employees for your latest book. Of course, your meticulous historical details and depth of vision make for many disappointing trips to the store, annoyed librarians, and many years of blissful anticipation on the part of this reader!

    As a newly married 21 year old, I was captivated by your Barbara and her development into womanhood, albeit in a glamorous setting. I have outgrown many of the books of all genres I’ve read over the years, but not yours. I believe this is the best test of an author. “Can I get something substantially new each time I read this book in a different season of my life?” Through A Glass Darkly is spot on in that regard.

    My copy of “Through A Glass” is tattered and musty from surviving a basement flood, but my daughters will inherit it:) Then we can all share and reminisce in the world of Babs.

    I hope your other readers notice something about you that is rare in novels today. You capture the essence of romance without being sentimental. You do not use history as an excuse to put heroines in flowing gowns, but actually grasp essential moments and people in history. Blessedly, you do not seem to be inured with psychobabble either! I also admire your rich, multi dimensional characters. All in all, your readers can escape from boredom or problems without escaping from truth. We need more authors, real artists, like you.

    Having said all of this, I hope you ignore some of the pleas your other readers make for sequels.
    I think you would be doing a disservice to Barbara and her world by tidily summing up her life any further. The Three are perfect as they are! I believe it appropriate that we should continue to wonder what has become of Barbara and her loved ones. In fact, we already know the most important things about her. Whatever else there is might best be left to our imaginations. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us and inspiring us to our own discoveries.

    Every Blessing,
    Barbara B. Gardner

  28. Dear Karleen,
    I can’t tell you how much Through a Glass Darkly influenced me. When I first read the novel, which was later to become my absolute favorite historical novel, I was twelve years old and in that weird stage where you don’t really know what kind of person you are. It sounds strange, but Through a Glass Darkly started me on that path of finding out. I first devoured the book in two or three days. Then I began reading the historical biographies of the characters in your books. Now I’m a complete history geek and I’m planning to major in history in college. Right now, in fact, I’m midway through a biography on the Duke of Monmouth that I pretty much scoured every library within a hundred miles to find. (Also wondering if he’ll be featured in your fourth novel when it comes out?) You probably hear this all the time, but thank you for writing those wonderful books.

  29. I read Through a Glass Darkly when I was much younger (I’m 40 now) and I remember just loving it. I had moved away from fiction for years and was focused on history and biographies for such a long time up until 3 years ago. I started to look for new fiction books that would catch my fancy…I found Before Versailles and Dark Angels this summer! I realized that you are the same author and I decided to finally read Now Face to Face (after all these years). I am so distressed that there is not another book to read from you, but I just know whatever you put out will be fantastic. I, along with many others, await your next book. Thank you for writing!

  30. I fell in love with “Through a Glass Darkly” several years ago, and had the pleasure of meeting you in person at a Houston Writers Guild Convention . Keep up the good work, Karleen!

  31. Pingback: Through a Glass Darkly–eBook on Sale Today Only | Kathy Waller ~ Telling the Truth, Mainly

  32. I am a great fan- and still hoping for more of the story of Barbara and Lucius and Therese etc. Is there one? I am one of your older readers 76..and have read the 3 volumes I have several times. They make me stop and think about my life and my family and how everything is intertwined.
    Thank you for your insight and the pleasure your books have given me.

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