Karen was born in Ventura, California. At the age of 12, she moved to Libya due to her father being in the Foreign service and shortly thereafter moved to Ethiopia, France, Australia and the Philippines before moving in 1969 back to California. Karen attended The American College in Paris, UC Santa Barbara and The American Academy of Dramatic Arts where she majored in Theatre Arts. Karen has numerous television credits which include guest starring roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Murder She Wrote, Wings, Murphy Brown, Mr. Belvedere, Growing Pains, It's A Living, and Knots Landing. She has also co-starred in Woman with a Past and Locked Up. She has appeared in the feature films Chained Heat, Faith, and Psycho III.
Karen's stage credits have included a supporting role on Broadway in Zoot Suit as well as the Los Angeles productions of Mrs. California, Bus Stop, and Sister Mary Ignatius at The L.A. Stage Theatre. When Karen is not acting, she is the Director of Conservatories at The Southcoast Repertory. She also teaches classical theater at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Although Karen plays the wheelchair-bound Doris Collins on Y&R, she is not physically handicapped in real life.
Karen has two children, a daughter, Katja and a son, Roman Elliott.