John Patrick Hanrahan held several degrees, including a Bachelor of Theology from the Melbourne College of Divinity, a Bachelor of Arts from the Australian National University and a Masters degree from the University of Melbourne. After completing his theological studies, Hanrahan worked as a Roman Catholic priest from 1965-1970. After leaving the priesthood he lectured in literature at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology for twelve years.
From 1984 onwards, Hanrahan concentrated on his own writing. He produced fiction, poetry, literary criticism and pieces about religion and contributed to many Australian newspapers and literary magazines, including The Age, The Australian, Overland, Island Magazine and Australian Book Review.