Karen writes about architecture, urbanism, design and the environment for publications including Metropolis, ReadyMade, Time Out New York and The New York Times. She also manages print and online publications for SPUR, an urban planning public policy think tank. She has served as an editor of Swink, the literary magazine, taught writing at Pratt Institute and the New School University, and performed her written work at venues such as The Moth urban storytelling series. Her first book, Crystal Cove Cottages: Islands in Time on the California Coast, was a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

Karen grew up in Southern California and received a B.A. in English and fine art from Pitzer College. She got her start in journalism in Portland, Oregon, where she founded Tonic, an alternative newspaper, and wrote and edited for Willamette Week, Portland’s Pulitzer-winning newsweekly. In 1999, she moved to New York and spent five years as a senior editor at Metropolis, covering urban planning, green architecture, landscape design, historic preservation and public art.

She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, Devan Reiff, and a Volkswagen that runs on biodiesel.