Tanith Lee was born in 1947 in London, England. She received her secondary education at Prendergast Grammar School, Catford. She began to write at the age of 9. After school she worked variously as a library assistant, a shop assistant, a filing clerk, and a watiress. At age 25 she spent 1 year at art college. From 1970 to 1971 three of Lee's children's books were published. In 1975 DAW Books USA published Lee's The Birthgrave, and thereafter 26 of her books, enabling her to become a full-time writer.
To date she has written 58 novels and 9 collections of novellas and short stories. Four of her radio plays have been broadcast by the BBC and she has written 2 episodes of the BBC cult series Blake's Seven. Her work has been translated into over 15 languages. Lee has twice won the World Fantasy Award for short fiction, and was awarded the August Derleth Award in 1980 for her novel Death's Master. In 1992 Lee married the writer John Kahne, her partner since 1987. They live in southeast England with one black-and-white cat.