Karen was born in Canada. When her parents met, her Australian father was a refrigeration mechanic and her English mother a draftswoman. Soon after their marriage and Karen’s birth, the family moved to England and then, a few years later, to Australia, where they settled first in Five Dock and later moved to Haberfield, both inner city Sydney suburbs. When Karen was six, they moved to Hornsby Heights and then on to Glenorie when she was 16.
During that time her mother kept the home fires burning and her father started a commercial refrigeration business that was to become the biggest in the southern hemisphere. Karen attended Asquith Girls High and, after the move to Glenorie, finished her schooling at Galston High.
From when she was a little girl, she adored ponies and was teased that the first word she ever spoke was in fact… “pony”! Her grandfather lived in Tamworth where her father was raised. When he was a little boy Karen relates how the family went to church one Sunday in the horse and cart and, on their return home, found that the entire property had been razed by bushfire; all they had left were the clothes they were wearing and the horse and cart.
When Karen and her parents moved back to Sydney, her grandfather still lived in Tamworth. As Karen grew older – and after attending weekly riding lessons at Tall Timbers Riding School in West Pennant Hills – she would go up there and spend holidays at a family friend’s property, where she learned to muster cattle and sheep on horseback. When she was 16, the last horse that her grandfather bred became her first. A bay quarter horse/stock horse galloway, his name was Boy and he lived with Karen from the age of five until he passed away at 30. He was a brilliant first horse, and they did everything together; pony club, dressage, showing and eventing. Other horses joined him as Karen continued her equestrian pursuits.
After leaving school Karen went on to university and completed a Bachelor of Communication at what was then Sydney’s Institute of Technology. Following graduation, and after six months working at Centrelink, she moved to the UK. Following 18 months of various office jobs in London she decided to see if the reality of working with horses lived up to the dream.
She started as a working pupil at Pendley Pony Stud, in Buckingham, which was the home of Dorian and Jennifer Williams. He was a well-known equestrian broadcaster and huntsman, and the founder of the Olympia Horse Show. She was a top show horse breeder and producer. The year’s experience Karen gained there working towards her British Pony Society’s Stud Assistant certificate was invaluable. Not only was she working with top show pony stallions, mares and foals, but with hunters through the winter. Once her traineeship was completed, she worked at a National Hunt racing yard in Reading, and then managed a hotel stable in Somerset.
But eventually homesickness won, so she returned to Glenorie and her own riding adventures, including showing and breeding Arabians. In the years that followed she worked as a training officer with the NRMA, was the public relations officer with Kuringai Council, a production assistant for McGraw Hill educational publishers, taught English/Communications at Mount Druitt TAFE, was a supervisor/training officer for Telstra MobileNet and completed a master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Macquarie University. Eventually, she opened Phantasia, a science fiction, fantasy and mystery bookshop in Penrith.