Shelley O'Reilly moved from Tasmania to Melbourne in 1997. She holds a PhD (1995) in English from the University of Tasmania. Her thesis was 'The Articulate Heart : Christina Rossetti, William Morris, D. G. Rosetti and the Pre-Raphaelite Poetry of Love'.
O'Reilly has published short stories and poems in literary quarterlies and national newspapers, and articles and reviews in academic journals. She has worked in a wide array of occupations including editor, performer, proofreader, academic, sales assistant and tutor for a private company. Her first book of fiction, the collection of short stories Dying forBeauty, appeared in 2001. O'Reilly has also written a wide range of study guides on major authors for educational publishers.