Karen Grassle (pronounced Gras' ley) was born February 25, 1944 in Berkely California. Her first television appearnace was at the age of 7 in the series Love of Life. While attending Ventura High School, Karen was involved with Student Legislature, the Thespian Club, the Associated Student Body, Social Board, Ushers Club, and was Valedictorian.
Though she is an actor, a director, and an educator, Karen is best remembered for her role of Caroline Ingalls on the long running television series Little House on the Prairie. In addition to her television roles, Karen has also appeared on Broadway in Butterflies are Free to Fly, The Gingham Dog, and Sweet Sue. She has taken part in the New York Shakespeare Festival on numerous ocassions.
Karens involvement with the Shakespeare Festival is no surprise to those that are familar with her educational background. She is an alumna of the English department of the University of California at Berkely, where she majored in English, specializing in Shakespeare and drama. More recently she has co-founded, and acted as artistic director for, the Sante Fe Resource Company.
A little known trivia fact about Karen is that she twice changed her name in the hopes of boosting her chances at an acting role. Claiming to be the illegitimate child of the infamous 1930's bank robber (who incidently died 10 years prior to her birth), she first changed her name to Kay Dillinger. In 1973 Karen returned to LA to complete a movie project. At the time she was auditioning as Gabriel Tree. It was during this time that she beat out 47 actresses for the role of Caroline Ingalls on the drama Little House on the Prairie. Michael Landon convinced her to resort to her given name for the role.
In addition to her long running portrayal of Ma on Little House, Karen also acted in the following movies:
- Battered (1978)
- The President's Mistress (1978)
- Crisis in Mid-Air (1979)
- Cocaine-One Man's Seduction (1983)
- Between the Darkness and the Dawn (1985)
- Harry's War (1986)
- Wyatt Earp (1994)
Information above was gathered in part at the following websites: