Born Angela Olive Stalker in Eastbourne, in 1940, Carter was evacuated as a child to live in Yorkshire with her maternal grandmother. She began work as a journalist on the Croydon Advertiser, following in the footsteps of her father. Carter attended the University of Bristol where she studied English literature.
From 1976 to 1978 she was Arts Council of Great Britain Fellow in Creative Writing at Sheffield University and from 1980 to 1981 Visiting Professor in the writing program at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. She then travelled and taught widely in the USA and Australia. She was awarded the John Llewelyn Rhys Memorial Prize for The Magic Toyshop, the Somerset Maugham Award for Several Perceptions, the Cheltenham Festival of Literature Award for The Bloody Chamber and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Nights At The Circus.
Her novels, all of which have received considerable critical acclaim, include Shadow Dance (1965), The Magic Toyshop(1967), Heroes And Villains (1969), Love (1971), The Infernal Desire Machines Of Dr Hoffman (1972), The Passion Of New Eve(1977), Nights At The Circus (1984), and Wise Children (1991). She also published three collections of short stories, The Bloody Chamber (1979), Fireworks (1984), and Black Venus (1985), and two works of non-fiction, The Sadeian Women: An Exercise In Cultural History and Nothing Sacred: Selected Writings, translated the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, and edited collections of fairy and folk tales as well as Wayward Girls And Wicked Women: An Anthology Of Subversive Stories (1986). She wrote the screenplay for A Company Of Wolves, based on her own short story.
A story for children, Sea Cat And Dragon King, was published posthumously by Bloomsbury in 2000. Her work has been collected in three volumes Burning Your Boats (1995) (Collected Short Stories), The Curious Room (1996) (Collected Drama), and Shaking A Leg (1997) (Collected Journalism and Writings).
At the time of her death, Carter was embarking on a sequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre based on the later life of Jane’s stepdaughter, Adèle Varens. However, only a synopsis survives.
Her novel Nights at the Circus won the 1984 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for literature.
Angela Carter died aged 51 in 1992 at her home in London after developing lung cancer. Her obituary published in The Observer said, “She was the opposite of parochial. Nothing, for her, was outside the pale: she wanted to know about everything and everyone, and every place and every word. She relished life and language hugely, and reveled in the diverse.”
“The Bloody Chamber is such an important book to me. Angela Carter, for me, is still the one who said: ‘You see these fairy stories, these things that are sitting at the back of the nursery shelves? Actually, each one of them is a loaded gun. Each of them is a bomb. Watch: if you turn it right it will blow up.’ And we all went: ‘Oh my gosh, she’s right—you can blow things up with these!’ ” —Neil Gaiman, The Daily Telegraph
“She was, among other things, a quirky, original, and baroque stylist, a trait especially marked in The Bloody Chamber—her vocabulary a mix of finely tuned phrase, luscious adjective, witty aphorism, and hearty, up-theirs vulgarity.” —Margaret Atwood, The Observer
“With Angela Carter’s death English literature has lost its high sorceress, its benevolent witch-queen, a burlesque artist of genius and antic grace.” – Salman Rushdie