Alumni Services

Karen Walls

Dagenham. Amsterdam. The Dandenongs. Karen Walls' career reads like an adventure story and a new chapter has recently started with the release of her first novel.

Name Karen Walls
Degree award Bachelor of Commerce (Hons)
Year of graduation


Your time at the University

Karen Walls

Even now when I have worked in 30 countries and visited many more Edinburgh is still my favourite city. How can you not love the gothic spires that are hewed from stone and stood the test of time? I loved my time in Edinburgh. Loved living in Warrender Park Road on the 4th floor of a tenement that had Sellotape around the windows to keep the wind out – which had no impact what so ever!

When I chose Edinburgh it was rare for Scottish students to venture out of Scotland so it never occurred to me to go further afield. With almost 40 years of hindsight I would have made the same decision. What other university has its heart in the centre of a city that is vibrant all year long. I went to the Fringe for the first time in 1982 and have rarely missed a year since. It’s bonkers.

In four years I was never not surprised by the whip of the wind on the side of the David Hume Tower. Long gone, I loved a visit to the Mr Boni ice cream shop, the Teviot Row union and Bedlam Theatre.

My book published in 2019 has three women who meet in Edinburgh and they echo many of the things I loved…climbing Arthur’s Seat, picnics in the Meadows, drinking games in the union and some downright weird societies. I joined The Women’s Group, Cheese and Wine (still have a lifelong love of both), as well as various politics and music societies.

I spent my summers in Marks and Spencer’s and my flat mate worked in a cheese shop (never been so well fed). I also volunteered to teach English to Iranian refugees. So began a lifelong interest in understanding different countries, cultures and both an insight into the best and worst of humanity. That has served me well in work and writing.

Your experiences since leaving the University

I left Edinburgh in 1986 for a job in ‘London’. I actually ended up in Dagenham (not quite the streets of gold…) working for Ford Motor Company as a trainee in HR. My first job was Industrial Relations in the Dagenham factory (sadly long gone) which has kept me in stories ever since. It was certainly an eye opener for a 22-year-old graduate.

After a drunken night in Amsterdam with my now husband we quit our jobs in 1990 and travelled the world. A highlight was selling vacuum cleaners door to door in the Melbourne suburbs. A job we were surprisingly good at and saved enough money to have an impromptu wedding in the Dandenong mountains, where I was played into the very small gathering by the melliferous notes of a digeridoo!

Back to reality at the end of 1991, I joined Accenture then Hay McBer as a consultant specialising in people, leadership and personal development before setting up my own consultancy in 2001. I have now worked in over 200 companies all over the world.

When I hit 50 I decided to try and write a book. I wanted to write a book that had strong women characters and political resonance. That resulted in ‘A Killing Sin’, published under the pseudonym of KH Irvine. It’s gone on to do really well and tells the story of three women who meet at the University and their lives, which become entangled with a female jihadist.

My greatest pleasure and pride are my two daughters, now 21 and 24, who are truly amazing and wonderful. And the vacuum-selling husband - we are about to celebrate 29 years of marriage.

​​​​​​​When I hit 50 I decided to try and write a book. I wanted to write a book that had strong women characters and political resonance.

Karen Walls

Alumni wisdom

You are the future. The world you have inherited has many challenges and just as many opportunities. Think big, live big, make a difference and follow your passion.

Related links

University of Edinburgh Business School

'A Killing Sin' on Urbane Publications' website