Karen Armstrong was born in Worcestershire. After becoming a nun in the 1960s, she left her order and lectured in literature at London University before becoming a full time writer, broadcaster and international adviser on religious and political affairs. A regular columnist for the Guardian, her books include A History of God, The Gospel According to Women, The Battle for God, Islam: A Short History, Through the Narrow Gate, her memoir A Spiral Staircase and A Short History of Myth: The Great Transformation and Buddha. Her work has been translated into forty languages. Karen Armstrong is also the author of three television documentaries. In 1999 she was awarded the Muslim Public Affairs Council Media Award and she was recently awarded a First Decoration of Art and Literature by the Egyptian Government – the first Western woman to be given this award. Since 11 September 2001 she has been a frequent contributor to conferences, panels, newspapers and periodicals on both sides of the Atlantic on the subject of Islam and fundamentalism. She has twice addressed members of the United States Congress, was one of three scholars to speak in the United Nations in the first session ever devoted to religion in that body, and has also been invited to advise members of the Canadian parliament on relations with the Islamic world. In June 2002, she gave the keynote address at the annual convention of the American Muslim Council, and is currently involved in a major project to develop an intellectually strong and pluralistic American Islam with leading members of the Muslim community. She lives in London.