Meet Karyn Henley
As you and your preschoolers gobble up favorites like The Beginner’s Bible, God’s Story, and My First Hymnal, do you ever stop to consider who’s telling the story? In the case of best-selling children’s author Karyn Henley, you’d probably like the storyteller just as much as the story itself! As a world-traveling writer, musician, wife, and homeschooling mother of two, Karyn is a person who’s almost constantly "on-the-go"—but her busy schedule hasn’t weakened her grasp on what’s truly important. And what’s truly important to Jesus, she believes, is children.
This principle was brought home to her in a special way about 15 years ago. At the time, Karyn was married with one child, and had a promising future writing songs for top Christian singers like Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. As her songwriting career flourished, Karyn found herself with dwindling time for family. When she became pregnant with her second child, she realized she was at a crossroads. "I knew I couldn’t be the mother I needed to be and pursue my career full-time," she tells Today’s Christian Woman. "If I couldn’t take care of my family, I had no business trying to take care of anything else. I told the Lord, ‘I don’t know what you want me to do, but I only want to do what you want me to do.’ My life hasn’t been the same since!"
In the process of raising—and later homeschooling—her two boys, Karyn searched for a good children’s devotional she could use for their bedtime stories. When she couldn’t find one that met her needs, she decided to write and illustrate some Bible stories on her own. Her husband, Ralph, eventually helped her publish these homespun bedtime stories as The Beginner’s Bible. It has sold over 3 million copies and has been translated into 17 languages.
How does Karyn take the profound and universal ideas in God’s Word and translate them into simple narratives little children can comprehend? It requires a gift for seeing things from a kid’s perspective—and there’s no doubt Henley possesses that special knack. In an interview with Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine, she tells the following story to illustrate the sometimes radically different ways adults and preschoolers can hear a passage of Scripture. "[My friend’s] three-year-old heard the story in Sunday School about Jesus being baptized in the Jordan River. When he came home, his mother asked him, ‘What is the story you heard today?’ He said, ‘Jesus went down to the river, and John the Bad Guy pushed him under the water. When He came back up, He turned into a bird and flew away.’ . . . When the teacher mentioned John the Baptist, he thought she was saying ‘the Badtist.’"
The stories in Henley’s books enlist age-appropriate language and kid-friendly illustrations to avoid such drastic (albeit humorous) misunderstandings. In addition to her best-selling Beginner’s Bible series, Henley has authored Child Sensitive Teaching, Five Little Ladybugs, and many other CBD favorites. Her upcoming book, Gram's Song is designed to help children who have experienced the loss of a loved one understand what has happened and how to react.
Today, the Henley clan travels all over the world, ministering as a family unit. They host church seminars and family concerts equipping parents and educators to become more "child-sensitive." Their home base is Nashville, Tennessee.