Karen Babine was born and raised in the Lakes Country of Hubbard County, Minnesota. She traded lakes and trees for prairie and grass on the Red River Valley of western Minnesota for college, then hopped I-94 west to Spokane to do a Master of Fine Arts in Nonfiction at Eastern Washington University. In 2016, she was recognized with the Distinguished Alumni Award from her MFA program. After seven years of teaching at Bowling Green State University, she again headed west, this time to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a Ph.D. in English. She currently lives and writes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Her first book, Water and What We Know: Following the Roots of a Northern Life (University of Minnesota Press, 2015) won the 2016 Minnesota Book Award for creative nonfiction and was a Finalist for the Midwest Book Award and Finalist for the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.
Her work has appeared widely, from Slag Glass City to River Teeth to Fugue, Weber: The Contemporary West, Sycamore Review, and more. "Deadwood" won the Martin O. Lewis Prize from Weber: The Contemporary West in 2007; "An Island Triptych" was selected as a Notable in the 2014 Best American Essays.
She is also the founder and editor of Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, whose goal is to publish the best nonfiction scholarship and pedagogy across disciplines.
In 2017, she joined the nonfiction faculty of the Augsburg College Low-Residency MFA program.
Her last name is pronounced bay-byne: (first syllable rhyming with way, the second syllable rhyming with fine.)