Born in Melbourne, Dooley was ten when she moved to Canberra with her parents. She was educated at Canberra Girls' Grammar and the Australian National University.
Her working life started in 1980, when she moved to Adelaide to work as a legal secretary for nine years, subsequently retraining as a librarian. She has worked at Flinders University Library since 1990, where she has taken up the role of Special Collections Librarian.
Dooley gained first-class honours and a PhD in English at Flinders University in 2001.
She currently writes reviews and critical articles on a free-lance basis for various publications. Publications include From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations with Iris Murdoch, University of South Carolina Press, 2003 (as compiler and editor).