Karen earned her Master (1974) and Bachelor (1972) degrees from the University of Akron in Ohio, and has worked as Program Director at WMRA-FM, James Madison University in Harrisonburg Virginia and WUIS-FM, University of Illinois at Springfield. She moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1979 to become General Manager of KRWG-FM.
Karen became an Oklahoman in 1988 when she came to the University of Oklahoma as the General Manager of KGOU Radio, until her retirement in 2016.
Karen served a six-year term on the Board of Directors of National Public Radio from 1988-1994, and has been a participant on a wide variety of panels and committees for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR and others. Karen is the past Treasurer of Western States Public Radio and Chair of the Board of Rocky Mountain Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
She was a long-time board member of Jazz in June, Inc. in Norman that presents free jazz concerts each June. She previously has served on the board of Neighborhood Alliance, Inc. in Oklahoma City.
In 2011, KGOU joined with the other public broadcasting entities in Oklahoma to form the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange. Karen was elected Chair for fiscal year 2012, continuing in that position until her retirement. OPME is working to collaborate on projects of mutual interest that further the public service mission of public broadcasting.
Karen was recognized in 2004 by the Norman Arts Council as "Businessperson in the Arts and Humanities." In 2005, Karen received a Governor's Arts Community Service Award, which recognizes individuals for significant contributions to the arts in specific Oklahoma communities in the areas of leadership and volunteerism. Karen was recognized by the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists as "Teacher of the Year" in 2014. In 2015, Freedom of Information Oklahoma presented Karen with the Marian Opala First Amendment Award.