Author Profile

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott -- the "pioneer of sizzle history" according to USA Today -- is the New York Times bestselling author of Sin in the Second City, American Rose, and, most recently, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, which was named one of the best books of 2014 by Library Journal, the Christian Science Monitor, Amazon, and Flavorwire, and optioned by Sony for a miniseries.

She has written for the New York Times, the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, Smithsonian magazine, Salon, and other publications. Her Smithsonian profile of a rich recluse was named by The Atlantic as one of the best articles of 2013. She has also contributed to several anthologies, including Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex, edited by Erica Jong.

Abbott is a popular speaker at literary festivals, book clubs, libraries, historical societies and organizations, Civil War symposiums, women's groups, social clubs, and universities. She speaks about a wide range of topics: the Civil War, women's roles in the Civil War, the history of espionage, the history of sexuality, popular entertainment during the 1920s and 1930s, and underworld characters and crime. She also frequently teaches workshops on nonfiction proposal writing, the art of historical research, and the craft of narrative nonfiction.

Abbott is a native of Philadelphia, where she worked as a journalist, covering media, politics, crime, and (her favorite) shady underworld characters. She now lives in New York City with her husband and two African Grey parrots, Poe and Dexter. She's at work on her next book, a tale of a Gilded Age con artist, and occasionally moonlights as a private eye.

"Jackson Hole, Wyoming residents were lucky to experience Karen Abbott through two distinct programs sponsored by Teton County Library: an evening author talk featuring a slideshow on her latest book, Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, as well as an intimate writing workshop where Karen shared insight on how to craft compelling narrative nonfiction. Both programs were of quality, well-organized, and thoughtful. In addition to great programs, Karen is easy to work with throughout the planning process, and in person, she is personable and very generous with her time and expertise."
-- Leah Shlachter, Adult Program Coordinator, Teton County Library

"I had the pleasure of working with Miss Karen Abbott for a book lecture and signing for Liar Temptress Soldier Spy at the Smithsonian in fall of 2014. She brought the women of the civil war and their undercover roles in the unfolding drama vividly to life. She has wonderful expertise on the context, mores, and influence of the time and with that expertise gave a wonderfully new perspective through the eyes of the women of the time. The audience engaged with her passion and enthusiasm for the time and topic."
-- Cat Aboudara, Program Coordinator for the Smithsonian Associates

"Richmond has a deep associations with the Civil War and with one of the women portrayed in Karen Abbott's Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy. So having her speak at the Virginia Historical Society was the perfect match. The standing-room only crowd thoroughly enjoyed her engaging and, at times, humorous lecture. Karen truly brought the four fascinating women, whose stories she tells in her book, to life. She will always have a standing invitation to speak at the VHS."
-- Graham Dozier, Virginius Dabney Editor of the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

"Creating a series about Chicago's dark and seedy side would have been incomplete without having Karen Abbott discuss her best-seller Sin in the Second City. Karen not only provided a thrilling lecture to a packed house, but she also led an engaging city tour the day before. When her flight into Chicago was re-routed to Milwaukee due to poor weather, Karen went above and beyond and made her way to the Windy City for her commitment. Both events were sell outs and were the anchor to the whole series. We have continued to receive positive feedback from her participation and I cannot wait to work with Karen again."
-- Liz Garibay , Historian/Director of Public Programs, Chicago History Museum

"Karen won the hearts of everybody in the audience--not only those that had a seat, but those who stood the entire lecture because she knew exactly how to engage them. Karen has a unique ability to combine education and entertainment without sacrificing scholarship. Her presentation about female Civil War spies was wonderful--not only the prepared comments but the answers to many questions from the audience, who all enjoyed her sense of humor. I would love to have her anytime and could probably fill the room again with the same book."
-- Judy Miller, Deputy Director of the Filson Historical Society

For more about Karen and her works, go to

Reviews of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War

It is no small task for a writer to wade into the well-swum waters of the American Civil War and emerge with a book that manages to enhance the existing canon while holding the attention of casual readers and history buffs alike... Abbott's engaging prose is backed by dogged research that buoys the stories with delightful insights.
-- Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of The Girls of Atomic City

With this book, Karen Abbott declares herself the John le Carre of Civil War espionage--with the added benefit that the saga she tells is all true and beautifully researched.
-- Erik Larson, author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake

Videos featuring Karen Abbott

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy by Karen Abbott

Karen Abbott - Southern Voices 2015