Karen Spears Zacharias grew up in a military family. Her father was killed in 1966 in Vietnam’s Ia Drang Valley. Her father’s death propelled Karen into a career as an author and journalist. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, OPB and Newsweek. She is the author of several books, both non-fiction and fiction.

In 2018, Karen was selected the Appalachian Heritage Writer by Shepherd University in West Virginia, and was awarded the Weatherford for Best in Appalachian fiction by Kentucky’s Berea College. MOTHER OF RAIN was named as the One Book One West Virginia Read by the West Virginia Library Commission, and was adapted for the stage by The Springer, Georgia’s Historic State Theater.

A graduate of Oregon State University, Karen is currently studying abroad at the University of West Scotland.  She served on the national advisory boards for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial Fund and the Vietnam Memorial Wall Foundation. She is a member of Sons & Daughters in Touch and Daughters of the American Revolution. She stays active in programs designed to help veterans and Gold Star families.

She resides in Deschutes County, Oregon. Twitter @HurdMaizee


What people are saying about The Murder Gene: 

“Karen Zacharias relies on her dogged pursuit of facts to produce a dramatic and deeply reported account of seemingly disconnected murders. She weaves in science and psychology in a way that propels the story and pulls you along to see where her trail leads. The attention to detail and the resort to careful sourcing makes The Murder Gene a notable addition to the annals of crime reporting.” — Les Zaitz Publisher/editor, Oregon’s Malheur Enterprise, Founder/editor, Salem Reporter

“In a world of dime-a-dozen crime stories, Zacharias unearths one like no other I’ve read. This exhaustively researched book is deep in its linking of two murders to nature as well as nurture, wide in its piecing together thousands of pieces to create a single puzzle, and chilling in its reminder that evil, unfortunately, abides. The result is a book that will make you reconsider the insidiousness of murder in an all-new way.” — Bob Welch, author of Boy in the Mirror: An Athletic Director’s Struggle to Survive Sexual Abuse as a Child

“Karen Spears Zacharias’s page-turner The Murder Gene shines on a number of levels. We know who executed these murders and assaults, but why? And what are the odds a young man would commit nearly identical gruesome, unpredictable crimes as that of his grandfather? Is there something in DNA that could forewarn us? Written with compassion and insight, The Murder Gene comes off as a cross between Forensic Files and In Cold Blood. I love this book.” —George Singleton, author of You Want More: Selected Stories

Other Works:

“A relentless narrative, brilliantly written and paced.” – Pat Conroy

“A brilliant gem of a novel…Karen is a wonderful writer.” – Lee Smith

“Prepare to be captivated.” – Karen Karbo

“Prose as clear as spring water, and as lyrical as an old-time reel.” – Wiley Cash

“Thrums with real life and the beating heart.” – Silas House

“It’s all here: Tragedy, love, redemption, spirituality, and beauty .. and
the intricacy of mountain life. A beautifully vivid and authentic rendering
of Appalachia.” – Patti Callahan Henry


THE MURDER GENE: A True Story (Koehler, 2022).

CHRISTIAN BEND: A novel (Mercer University Press, 2017).

BURDY: A novel (Mercer University Press, 2015)

MOTHER OF RAIN: A novel (Mercer University Press, 2013)



WHERE’S YOUR JESUS NOW? (Zondervan, 2008)

AFTER THE FLAG HAS BEEN FOLDED (William Morrow/HarperCollins 2006) (Formerly HERO MAMA, (HarperCollins, 2005).

BENCHED: The Memoirs of Judge Rufe McCombs (MUP, 1997)

What people are saying about Karen:

“I have been a ‘have’ and a ‘have not’ in my life. I have found my walk with the Lord, as Karen illustrates so well in these beautiful stories, that the riches he desires for us have nothing to do with money. I love a writer that’s not afraid to walk with real people and speak the truth in their lives. Keep shining your light, Karen!”
Jeff Foxworthy, comedian

“You have a huge fan in the Allman Brothers Band of heathens. Thank you for being brave enough to stand up and be one of our prophets. We desperately need you.”
Oteil Burbridge, bassist and vocalist, Allman Brothers

“Karen Zacharias is the rarest, most valuable kind of speaker and writer. Not only does she transport her audience to real-life scenes she describes through storytelling, but she also explains the technical details of creating nonfiction work in a clear way, so that fellow writers can follow those blueprints and begin to achieve better results as essayists, memoirists, journalists, and other chroniclers of events and lives. Thanks to Karen’s guidance, her audience is able to convey what happened and what it all means.”
George Weinstein, Program Chairman of the Atlanta Writers Club

“I recently had Karen Spears Zacharias as one of my hand-chosen speakers for my annual Pulpwood Queens Book Club Author Extravaganza and her speech was one of the highlights of the event. Of the thirty authors features, Karen was by far the crowd favorite! Everyone was inspired.”
Kathy L. Patrick, Founder of the International Book Club, Pulwood Queens Beauty & the Book