Karen Frances Blumenthal was born on March 18, 1959, in Dallas. Her mother, Beverly (Brand) Blumenthal, was a social worker; her father, Robert, was a lawyer.
Karen grew up in Dallas and went to Duke University, where she majored in economics and graduated in 1981. She was editor of The Chronicle, the student newspaper, where she met Mr. McCartney. They married in 1983.
After college, she worked for The Dallas Morning News as a reporter before joining The Wall Street Journal’s Dallas bureau in 1984. She also took night business classes at Southern Methodist University while starting a family; she earned her M.B.A. there in 1990.
The Morning News hired her back in 1992 as business editor. This complicated things at home, because her husband by this time was working for The Journal’s Dallas bureau and they often competed on the same stories.
He found the situation untenable and eventually asked The Journal to move him to a different beat. But Paul Steiger, The Journal’s managing editor, had another idea: Rather than have Mr. McCartney cover something else, he hired Ms. Blumenthal back, making her deputy Dallas bureau chief.
In 1996 she became bureau chief, a job she held for eight years, overseeing a dozen reporters covering eight states. On Sept. 11, 2001, when The Journal’s main offices in Lower Manhattan were evacuated after the terrorist attacks, Ms. Blumenthal helped coordinate and edit the paper’s coverage, which won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news.
She later wrote a personal finance column for The Journal called “Getting Going.”
She also started writing books for young adults. One of her daughters, then around 14, had become interested in the New Deal, and Ms. Blumenthal couldn’t find any good age-appropriate material about it. She saw this void as an opportunity to create nonfiction narratives about defining moments in modern American history for young teenagers.