Black was born as Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, the daughter of Elsie Mary (née Reif), a writer of several prize-winning children's novels, and Norman Arthur Ziegler. Her paternal grandfather was Arthur Charles Ziegler, a classical musician and first violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her sister is the actress Gail Brown. Black was of German, Bohemian (Czech) and Norwegian descent.
Black made her acting debut in a small role "
Burnt Offerings (1976)
"Karen Black changes her makeup in the middle of the scene, so nothing matches on the screen. She sleeps all day, never goes to rushes and you can't hear a bloody thing she says on the set. When I made movies you could hear me in a tunnel." "