Flannery O’Connor was a short story writer, novelist, and essayist. She was born Mary Flannery O’Connor in Savannah, Georgia, in 1925. She was the only child of Edward and Regina O’Connor. Regina was strict and wanted her daughter to be a proper Southern lady. Edward was more relaxed, encouraging his daughter’s imagination. She spent her childhood in an Irish-Catholic neighborhood, near the Cathedral of St. John, where the family worshiped regularly. O’Connor’s faith and family would heavily influence her writing.

O’Connor’s family lived briefly in Atlanta. During that time, her father was diagnosed with lupus. Edward’s failing health prompted the family to move to Regina’s childhood home. The family farm was a former cotton plantation named Andalusia. It was just outside the small town of Milledgeville, Georgia. Her father died two years later, when O’Connor was 15 years old. O’Connor took the loss hard, as she felt as if she had lost both her father and her best friend.

Beginning in 1942, O’Connor attended the Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville. While there, she drew cartoons that appeared in the campus newspaper, the college yearbook, and the college literary magazine, the Corinthian. She also contributed poems, fiction, and essays and edited the Corinthian.  After graduating in 1945, she attended the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While there, she dropped the Mary from her name. She graduated in 1947 with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing.

While working on her first novel, Wise Blood, O’Connor began to experience health problems. She was soon diagnosed with lupus, the same disease that took her father. In 1951, she retreated to Andalusia and her mother’s care. She would live there for the rest of her life. During those years, she completed most of her writing. Andalusia and the region inspired many of the settings and characters in O’Connor’s stories.

O’Connor found comfort and purpose in her Catholic faith. Without it, she said, she would have had no reason to write. She strongly believed in the Christian concept of grace, God’s favor. People do not earn grace as such, but God gives it freely, and the characters in her stories often experience moments of epiphany when a crisis changes or awakens their faith.

Although doctors gave her only five years to live, O’Connor managed to survive another thirteen. She died in 1964 at the age of 39 and was buried at the local cemetery beside her father.

In total, O’Connor wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories. She first published “Good Country People” in her 1955 short story collection A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. She won the O’Henry Award for short stories of exceptional merit three times. The Complete Stories, published posthumously, won the 1972 National Book Award.