Jenny Burley was born in SA and has spent most of her life here. Her mother Frances (née McKay) was born in Ireland and worked as a skilled bookkeeper for many years. Her father, Cyril Burley, was a journalist for the Adelaide News, where he was the war correspondent during WWII. He later worked for the Melbourne Age. Jenny was educated at Loreto Convent, Marryatville and Kilbreda College, Mentone (Vic). She left school at 15 and worked in clerical positions, and was, for a year, a novice in an order of French missionary nuns based in Melbourne.
She married at 21, had 7 children, and worked part-time until her youngest child started school, when she started full-time work as a Library Aide. She eventually established and managed primary school libraries at Mercedes and St Mary's Colleges. In 1978 she started writing her first novel, which was published in 1982.
In 1984, after separating from her husband, she commenced full-time tertiary studies at Flinders University, graduating with first-class Honours in Politics in 1987. She worked as a research assistant for a government Senator before moving to the Legal Services Commission as their Legal Training Officer. She began her doctoral studies part-time in the Politics Dept of the University of Adelaide in 1990, and was awarded a PhD in 1996. Her thesis was entitled "Equal Before the Law? - The Case of Vietnamese Refugees in South Australia". She joined the staff of the Legal Studies Department of Flinders University in 1992. Her current research interests are in comparitive family law and investigating why Irish women voted against divorce in 2 referenda.
As well as her novel, Jenny has written New Lives, New Language, New Laws: The Vietnamese and the Legal System in South Australia (1995). She plans to write a "three-generations" novel in her retirement, telling the "Ireland to Australia" story through the eyes of the women of those times.