Karen's mother is Gitxsan, and since Gitxsan culture follows a matrilineal practice where a child's hereditary lineage is determined by their mother's, Karen is from Lax Gibuu (Wolf Clan) from the house of Nii Kyep. She learned many cultural teachings from her late Gigi (grandmother) Rena Benson who was Simoogit (hereditary chief), and her Ye'eh (grandfather) Frank Benson. In 1996, she graduated from Emily Carr University of Art and Design with a BFA in Fine Arts, specializing in oil painting. Karen has participated in public art projects such as the Reconciled Futures installation with the Museum of Vancouver in 2019. She has also led workshops on traditional art mediums such as button blanket making.