Karen Zelan was trained in psychoanalytic milieu therapy at the University of Chicago's Orthogenic School. She served as a senior staff supervising psychologist at Boston Children's Hospital Medical Center and as a Harvard Medical School instructor in the department of psychiatry. She has written extensively on children's learning and is the coauthor, with Bruno Bettelheim, of On Learning to Read. Zelan is a psychotherapist to troubled youth in Berkeley, California, where she resides with her husband. Her son and daughter, now grown, live nearby.