Born and raised in Connecticut, Kilby pursued undergraduate degrees in mathematics and theology at Yale. She would later complete her PhD at Yale Divinity School, studying under George Lindbeck and Kathryn Tanner, on the theology of the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner.
Kilby has taught at the University of St Andrews, the University of Birmingham, and, from 2001–2013, at the University of Nottingham. In January 2014, began her appointment as Bede Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University.
She has written widely within the discipline of systematic theology, specifically with respect to the Trinity, and has written especially about the Catholic theologians Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar.
- Kilby, Karen (2004). Karl Rahner: Theology and Philosophy. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-25965-1.
- Kilby, Karen (2007). Karl Rahner: A Brief Introduction. London: SPCK. ISBN 978-0-281-05842-6.
- Kilby, Karen (2012). Balthasar: A (Very) Critical Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-1-4674-3642-7.
- "Professor K.E. Kilby". Durham University. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- Mosley, David Russell (10 June 2013). "Celebrating Theology Faculty from the University of Nottingham: Karen Kilby". Letters from the Edge of Elfland. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- "The Bede Chair of Catholic Theology". Durham University. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- Harris, Steven Edward (6 March 2010). "Karen Kilby on Apophatic Trinitarianism". Theological Journeying. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
- Harris, Steven Edward (8 March 2010). "Progress in Mystery in Hilary of Poitiers". Theological Journeying. Retrieved 21 December 2017.
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