Kathleen Ernst is the award-winning, bestselling author of thirty-three published books, which together have now sold 1.6 million printed, electronic, and audio copies.
Kathleen's work has earned numerous honors, including an Emmy for children's educational programming, a LOVEY Best Traditional Mystery Award, and an Edgar and multiple Agatha national mystery award nominations.
Kathleen's published books fall into three main groups: American Girl mysteries and historical fiction for readers ages 8 and up; Chloe Ellefson mysteries for adults and mature teens; and American Civil War books for adults and young readers. In addition, she has written poetry, a young adult (YA) novel, and a non-fiction history about the American Civil War.
Kathleen is the creator of Caroline Abbott, the newest American Girl historical character, and author of the multiple award-winning series about her. The first book in the series, Meet Caroline, has been in the Top 1% of US printed book sales for over 800 days (Source: Nielsen BookScan). The seventh, Traitor In The Shipyard, was nominated for an Agatha Award as Best Traditional Children's Mystery. The latest, The Smuggler's Secrets, came out in 2015. It is Kathleen's nineteenth American Girl book.
Kathleen created and writes the award-winning Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries published by Midnight Ink. The third book, The Light Keeper's Legacy, won the LOVEY Best Traditional Mystery Award. Books one through five have been ranked in the Top 1% of US printed book sales (out of 8 million books tracked) for well over 100 days each (Source: Nielsen BookScan). The sixth, Death on the Prairie, was released in October 2015, and Kathleen has started writing the seventh.
American Civil War
Kathleen has written five historical fiction novels for young readers, and one non-fiction history book for adults, about the Civil War. The latter, Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign, earned her a National Park Service invitation to speak at the ceremonies (live on C-SPAN) marking the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
Kathleen lives in Middleton, Wisconsin, with her husband and cat. She has been living in Wisconsin for over thirty years. She grew up in Maryland, in a family that considered books as fundamental to life as food and water. She started writing as a child and never stopped! Today, she finds researching books as much fun as writing them.
Kathleen earned a B.S. degree in Environmental Education from West Virginia University and a M.A. degree in History Education and Writing from Antioch University, Ohio. She spent over a decade working as an educator and curator for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, and another decade scripting and producing instructional television series for the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board/Wisconsin Public Television. These experiences helped provide the foundation for her current full-time job as a self-employed writer.
Lists of Kathleen's writings, video works, and awards she has earned can be found further down this page. Additional details about Kathleen can be found on her About Me page and on the pages below.
The photos above should be credited to Kay Klubertanz.
Kathleen is the author of the following published books.
- Nineteen historical novels and mysteries for young readers from American Girl
- Six Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mysteries for adults and mature teens from Midnight Ink
- Five children's historical novels about the American Civil War from Dutton and White Mane Kids
- One non-fiction history about the American Civil War from Stackpole Books
- One non-fiction history about 18th century immigrants to Wisconsin from WHS Press.
- One young adult (YA) novel from Cricket Books
For details about an individual book, please click on its title below.
Death on the Prairie: Chloe Ellefson Mystery #6 - Midnight Ink, 2015
A Settler's Year: Pioneer Life Though The Seasons - WHS Press, 2015
The Smuggler's Secrets: A Caroline Mystery - American Girl, 2015
Traitor In The Shipyard: A Caroline Abbott Mystery - American Girl, 2013
The Light Keeper’s Legacy: Chloe Ellefson Mystery #3 - Midnight Ink, 2012
Changes For Caroline - American Girl, 2012
Caroline’s Battle - American Girl, 2012
Caroline Takes A Chance - American Girl, 2012
A Surprise For Caroline - American Girl, 2012
Caroline’s Secret Message - American Girl, 2012
Meet Caroline: An American Girl - American Girl, 2012
The Heirloom Murders: Chloe Ellefson Mystery #2 - Midnight Ink, 2011
Old World Murder: Chloe Ellefson Mystery #1 - Midnight Ink, 2010
Clues in the Shadows: A Molly Mystery - American Girl, 2009
The Runaway Friend: A Kirsten Mystery - American Girl, 2008
Midnight in Lonesome Hollow: A Kit Mystery - American Girl, 2007
Hearts of Stone - Dutton, 2006
Secrets in the Hills: A Josefina Mystery - American Girl, 2006
Highland Fling - Cricket Books, 2006
Danger at the Zoo: A Kit Mystery - American Girl, 2005
Betrayal at Cross Creek - Pleasant Company, 2004
Ghosts of Vicksburg - White Mane Kids, 2003
Whistler in the Dark - Pleasant Company, 2002
Trouble at Fort La Pointe - Pleasant Company, 2000
Retreat from Gettysburg - White Mane Kids, 2000
Too Afraid to Cry: Maryland Civilians in the Antietam Campaign - Stackpole, 1999
The Bravest Girl in Sharpsburg - White Mane Kids, 1997
The Night Riders of Harpers Ferry - White Mane Kids, 1996
Portrait photos above should be credited to Geri Gerrold.
Writing Awards and Honors
- Agatha Award Nominations, Malice Domestic, for Betrayal at Cross Creek, Danger at the Zoo, Traitor in the Shipyard, and Whistler in the Dark
- Anne Powers Prize for Best Fiction Book, Council for Wisconsin Writers, for The Heirloom Murders
- Arthur Tofte Juvenile Literature Award, Council for Wisconsin Writers, for Betrayal at Cross Creek, Ghosts of Vicksburg, Hearts of Stone, Meet Caroline, and Retreat From Gettysburg
- Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program Prize Picks, for Secrets in the Hills and Traitor in the Shipyard
- "Books for the Teen Age" List, New York Public Library, for The Night Riders of Harper's Ferry
- Children's Literature Award, Society of Midland Authors, for Hearts of Stone
- Edgar Allan Poe Award Nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for Trouble at Fort La Pointe
- Editors' Choice Selection, Historical Novels Review, for Hearts of Stone
- Flora MacDonald Award, Scottish Heritage Center, St. Andrews Presbyterian College, for Betrayal at Cross Creek
- History Book Club Alternate Selection, for Trouble at Fort La Pointe
- LOVEY Award for Best Traditional Mystery, Love Is Murder Mystery Writers, for The Light Keeper's Legacy
- WILLA Literary Award Finalist, Women Writing the West, for Whistler in the Dark
- Grand Prize winner, Franciscan Spirituality Center Writing Contest, for the poem Ascension
Portrait photos above should be credited to Geri Gerrold.
Kathleen's involvement in video production is divided into two parts: before and after becoming a full-time, self-employed author. As the Co-owner of Kathleen Ernst, LLC, she had the following roles in these videos.
- Old World Memories - Take a personal tour of Old World Wisconsin with Kathleen as she explains how this real outdoor ethnic history museum became the fictional setting for her first adult mystery novel, Old World Murder. Script by Kathleen Ernst, Videography by Scott Meeker, and Edited by Tom Micksch. Copyright Kathleen Ernst, LLC 2013.
- Handwork - Since so many 19th-century women left no written records behind, Kathleen has long been fascinated by the remnants of their lives that do remain. After writing a poem entitled Handword Kathleen created a video version of it. Script, Videography and Editing by Kathleen Ernst. Copyright Kathleen Ernst, LLC 2011.
- Migration Of A Tradition - What's an ale bowl? Join Kathleen at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum as she researches ale bowls while writing Old World Murder. Script by Kathleen Ernst, Videography and Editing by Scott Meeker. Copyright 2010 by Kathleen Ernst.
- Winter Visit To Vesterheim - While doing developing her Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series Kathleen visited the Vesterheim Museum in Deocrah IA to do research on Chloe's Norwegian-American heritage. Script by Kathleen Ernst, Videography and Editing by Scott Meeker. Copyright 2010 by Kathleen Ernst.
As a Project Director, Scriptwriter, and Teacher Guide Co-Author, Kathleen facilitated the development and production of the following instructional videos for Wisconsin Public Television.
- Cultural Horizons - North American version of Cultural Horizons of Wisconsin developed in partnership with public broadcasting stations in Atlanta, Colorado, Oregon, and in Quebec, Canada.
- Cultural Horizons of Wisconsin - A series of ten 20-minute shows for grades 4 through 6, fosters respect for and appreciation of the human diversity that enriches Wisconsin.
- Exploring Wisconsin Our Home - These fourteen 15-minute shows incorporate five geographic themes to depict the state’s history as well as its cultural and economic bounty, helping students in grade 4 to understand the interactions between physical geography and human activity.
- Investigating Wisconsin History - History comes alive for fourth grade-students in these twelve 15-minute programs as they become detectives searching for evidence about the state’s past and solving "history mysteries" of their own.
- New Dawn of Tradition: A Wisconsin Powwow - A 15-minute video showcasing an aspect of Native American culture that embraces many Indian nations, tribes, and bands. New Dawn of Tradition introduces fourth- and fifth-graders to the powwow as a cultural celebration.
Video Awards and Honors
- Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming, Midwest Chapter - National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
- Parents' Choice Recommended Seal
- Judges' Award for Instructional Innovation, National Educational Telecommunications Association
- Wilbur Schramm Award of Excellence, National Educational Telecommunications Association
- Platinum Best of Show Award, Aurora Independent Film and Video Competition
- Gold Award, Aurora Independent Film and Video Competition
- "Excellence in Multicultural and Global Programming" Citation, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction
- Crystal Award, Association for Educational Communications and Technology
- Award of Excellence, Central Education Network
Kathleen has also had articles, essays, and poems published in America's Civil War, Appalachian Heritage, Boundary Waters Journal, Civil War Times Illustrated, Cobblestone, Columbiad, Fox Cry Review, Perceptions Journal, Quilters' Newsletter Magazine, Wilderness, Wisconsin Trails, and other publications.