Karen H. Schreck grew up in a house so quiet and composed that her friends compared it to a museum. The only child of two hard-working academics, she spent many hours pretending, creating fantastical worlds and living extraordinarily within them, flying wildly away from the Midwest, only to return again. Once she was able to read longer books, however, the focus and intention of her imagination shifted. Now she could follow diverse characters as they moved through ever-changing settings. In the safety of their company, she confronted hazards, challenges, conflicts, and emotions she had never known or imagined.
In college, Karen’s desire to pretend reignited, and she found herself trying to write fiction. As with reading, once she started writing, she couldn’t stop. She moved to Boston and worked in publishing, then left for graduate school in New York and studied English and Creative Writing at S.U.N.Y. Binghamton. She wrote her first novel there, in a cheap, run-down apartment on a street that was, at the time, the record-holder for “taverns and bars located on a single avenue, boulevard, or street,” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The novel was part of her thesis, but otherwise, it never saw the light of day.
M.A. in hand, Karen returned to Illinois, where she taught literature and writing at her alma mater, Wheaton College. She married the photographer Gregory Schreck and received her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Karen and Greg had two children who transformed their lives.
Having realized that she was not an academic after all, but an occasional professor who loved to teach, Karen began working as a freelance writer and editor. She published her own short stories, interviews, and essays in magazines and journals, including Consequence, Oyster River Pages, American Fiction, Hypertext Magazine, The Rumpus, Belt, and Image. She published two historical novels Broken Ground, called a “masterfully written . . . must-read” by USA Today, and Sing For Me, described by Publisher’s Weekly as “an impressive debut…a well-wrought and edifying page-turner,” as well as two novels for young adults, While He Was Away, a runner-up for the Oklahoma Book Award, and Dream Journal, a BookSense Pick, and a children book, Lucy’s Family Tree, a Children’s Book Council’s Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, an Illinois State Arts Council Grant, and artist’s residencies at the Ragdale Foundation and the Rivendell Writers’ Colony, Karen is currently employed in the community engagement department of a public library. An experience there served as the seed for her forthcoming novel, All Are Welcome Here, which she is delighted and grateful to say has been acquired by Regal House and will be published in Fall, 2025.