Brag Page

This is my media brag page. I’ll be posting here anytime I get into the news. It could be an interview with the print media or a guest appearance in the blogosphere. An author profile by a book blogger or a review of my debut novel The Dancing Girl and the TurtleYou can read it here. All the news that’s fit to print from any media on the planet.


This section is an overview of my author events. Sometimes live or taped for air, on my own or with a crowd of other authors.

international writers’ collective: spring reading

So this was fun. At the end of every semester, the International Writers’ Collective organizes an event for students and faculty to read from their work in public. I got to tag along as faculty member for the reading on 20.04.2018. This is me reading from my debut novel The Dancing Girl and the Turtle.


another afternoon of readings
public reading
Reading at Pages Bookstore Cafe Amsterdam. Photo credit: Frans Verhagen

Back by popular demand was how we marketed this event, though in truth it was simply our own desire to get back on stage. By we, I mean Dipika Mukherjee, that globetrotter, who was the instigation for the reading at Pages Bookstore in October 2017.

This time, on 25 February 2018, we put together a whole new line-up of poets, humorists, fiction and non-fiction writers.

There was a bit of a bump en route to this reading but in the end it all worked out fine. You can read more about that bump here.

get the funk out!
KUCI fm logo. Image source:

A surprise stop at radio station KUCI 88.9 fm on the Get the Funk Out show with host and producer Janeane Bernstein. We talked about cliff-diving, writing by the seat of your pants and more. You can listen to the whole interview here. 16.10.2017.

book tour

I had 5 speaking engagements lined up for October 2017.

First stop: my college alma mater courtesy of Chancellor’s Professor of History and China expert, Jeff Wasserstrom. It was a brown bag lunch on 13.10.2017 with a diverse group of grad students: literature, economics and of course history. We talked about the historical resources I’ve used to create the backdrop to The Dancing Girl and the Turtle and continue to mine for the remaining volumes of The Shanghai Quartet. Here is the Reading List I shared with them.

Ramona Convent Tiger for Life! Photo credit: Karen Kao

Next stop: my high school alma mater Ramona Convent Secondary School, starting with my 40th high school reunion on 14.10.2017 and ending with a full day of lectures on 19.10.2017 to over 200 members of the Ramona student body. Here’s the RCSS newsletter for faculty and students that announced my appearance. You can find my interview with the alumni magazine below.

Another splashy announcement appeared in the October newsletter of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California. I spoke at their monthly meeting on 18.10.2017.

Brandon Horrocks, Nancy Lo and me at the SDCHM / APHAFIC reading

Last but not least was the author meet & greet co-hosted by the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum and the Association for Preserving Historical Accuracy of Foreign Invasions in China. That event took place on 21.10.2017. How fun is this to get written up in the local Chinese language newspaper We Chinese?

reading at pages bookstore cafe
Dipika Mukherjee and Karen Kao. Photo credit: Armelle van Helden

On 7 October 2017, the irrepressible Dipika Mukherjee and I co-hosted a reading by local storytellers, poets and fiction writers. All of us have, at one time or another, actively participated in the Amsterdam writers community and some of us still do.

This was the line-up:

  • Tori Egherman telling the story of how she fell in love with Iran;
  • Milla van der Have with her poetic odes to the Ghosts of Old Virginny;
  • David Martin with an oh-so -appropriate story about stage fright;
  • Abra Bertman reading her love poems;
  • Me and a scene from The Dancing Girl and the Turtle;
  • Robin Winckel-Mellish with South African poems of life and death;
  • David Lee reading from his short story collection / ode to John Steinbeck, The Moon Was Down;
  • Kate Foley making us laugh and cry with her poetry;
  • Mark Bruinekreeft at his first ever public reading;
  • Dipika reading an extract from her novel Shambala Junction; and
  • Last but not least, David Swatling reading from the sequel-in-progress to his thriller novel, Calvin’s Head.

Special thanks go out to Pages Bookstore Cafe Amsterdam. Founded by Syrian refugees, Pages is a pop-up bookstore, cafe and much more.

It is the home for music, for arts and literature, a haven of love… and a place to all of us, Pages is us! Pages is for artists, painters, musicians and filmmakers.

We had fun!

a book blog tour
interview review blog
Book Blog Tour September 2017

18.09.2017: An interview with the Royal Polar Bear Reads
19.09.2017: An extract published by My Reading Corner
20.09.2017: A five star review from The Bibliophile Chronicles
21.09.2017: my guest post “Ghost Month” on A Lover of Books
23.09.2017: Another lovely review, this time by Fledgling Words
24.09.2017: Fine review by Addiction2Fiction
25.09.2017: An elegantly written review by Bookmarked Reviews
26.09.2017: Little Q&A session with Delightful Book Reviews
27.09.2017: My guest post “Shanghai Noir” on If In Doubt Read
29.09.2017: A surprisingly nice review from Sarah Louise Writes
30.09.2017: One more extract published by Book Inspector
01.10.2017: Last stop and it’s a winner by Baleigh’s Better Life

book reviews (09.062018)

What a thrill to be reviewed by John Grant Ross for none other than, a book review site dedicated to showcasing quality fiction and non-fiction works about Asia. It’s hard to get anyone to pay attention to a novel, let alone one that’s been out for more than a year now.  Ross calls my novel

an ambitious, striking addition to the novels showing the sleazy side of 1930s Shanghai.

Yay, sleaze!

Trouw (23.09.2017)

Not quite a review, more like an honorable mention with my beautiful cover prominently displayed in the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw. Dutch journalist Wim Boevink meanders from the pleasures of novel reading to the realities of internet to the long-awaited demise of the written word. If my novel can serve as inspiration, then I’m happy.

Misha Herwin (22.09.2017)

This review was published as part of Misha Herwin‘s Friday Favourites series. Here’s her opening line:

From the intriguing title to the final, inevitable end, I was totally enthralled by this novel.

Pretty high praise coming from an established writer like Misha. She’s a regular contributor to Authors Electric, while I am a lowly guest blogger.

Hong Kong Review of Books (23.07.2017)
Image source:

Another review out of Hong Kong! I’m so pleased that reviewer Beverly Ngai understood exactly what I was trying to do.

The cornerstone of the story centers around the fact that Anyi is unable to vocalize her pain or seek help.

There is an ongoing need to talk about violence against women, past and present. I’m glad to play my part.

the brutally authentic struggles that Kao delineates and the powerful message exposing the violent consequences of an oppressive and patriarchal society make this story vital.

Expatica (15.05.2017)
review logo

First review from my adopted hometown of Amsterdam. Reviewer Erin Russell hones in on the craft side of the writing, calling the prose exceptional.

The narrative technique is brilliantly employed, creating a chorus of tones that echoes the rush, ambition, diversity, and indeed much darker elements of 1930s Shanghai.

South China Morning Post (12.05.2017)


A great review from a really tough audience: Hong Kong’s newspaper of record. They’ve read enough novels set in Old Shanghai to be leery of newcomers. And yet, there’s praise for my eccentric characters, the shocking violence and a great twist of an ending. But my favorite quote has to be the review’s headline:

The Dancing Girl & the Turtle makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like light bondage with its tale of Chinese prostitution.

Holland Times (09.05.2017)
Dutch book review
Dutch flag. Image source:

It’s raining reviews these days. This one just in from the Holland Times, an English-language monthly for the expat community in the Netherlands. This is my first review in actual print form so I’m giving you a PDF of this April 2017 review.

Historical Novel Society HNR Issue 80 (May 2017)
UK / US book review
Historical Novel Society. Image source: Facebook

The HNR is an Anglo-American society whose mission is to promote the enjoyment of historical novels. Happy to be included in their collection! This is what the HNR had to say:

political events take a backseat in this very personal story of fatally flawed characters.

Los Angeles Review of Books (26.04.2017)
LA book review
Los Angeles Review of Books. Image source:

As a girl from LA, this is quite the coup for me. To land on the pages of the Los Angeles Review of Books. At least, in the digital form of the China Blog, which is devoted to the life, culture, politics and literature of China. Its reviewers clearly know their stuff. So I especially like this quote:

No Old Shanghai novel […] has gone into the devastating psychological after-effects of sexual assault as deeply as Karen Kao does in her debut novel.

The Contemporary Small Press (07.04.2017)

My favorite review is the one from The Contemporary Small Press (07.04.2017) for the beautiful way in which it weaves quotes from my novel into the fabric of the review. I’m particularly gratified by the observation that:

The human need for intimacy and understanding is apparent on every page

Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang (07.03.2017)
UK book review
The Woman Who Lost China. Image source:

But my biggest thanks go to fellow author and China fan, Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang, for her advance review of my novel. A scholar of Oriental languages, Tsang is familiar with the world of The Dancing Girl and the Turtle. She has this to say about my prose:

each word meticulously chosen and exquisitely placed in the manner of a poet


Georgetown Law

Georgetown University Law Center is located on the Hill, within crawling distance from the Capitol, the Supreme Court and the White House. From 1981 through 1984, it’s where I lived. I studied there. All my food and drink came from the vending machines in the basement. If I had to do it all over again, this is probably the part I’d skip.

For beer money, I worked in the Placement Office for a counselor named Marilyn Tucker, whose job was to coach anxious almost-grads into the job market. Marilyn is still at Georgetown though these days interacting with alumni in the midst of a career transition. Bless her heart, Marilyn arranged for this interview, published in the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Georgetown Law.

Ramona Magazine

My high school alma mater went all out to promote my book and my visits to Ramona Convent last October.  In addition to the cozy book corner at my 40th high school reunion and the overwhelming welcome by the Ramona student body, there was this interview, too. It appeared in Fall issue of Ramona Magazine.

Ninja Book Box

It’s such a cool idea: a box sent to you once a quarter with a curated collection of books issued by independent presses. Books you wouldn’t otherwise find in your local book store (assuming you still have one) or even online unless you’re an indefatigable search engine. That’s the mission of Ninja Book Box.

So I’m really excited that The Dancing Girl and the Turtle has been included in this year’s Indie Extravaganza. And more than happy to be interviewed, of course! Published 02.11.2017.

Literary Globe
Vlog interview
Literary Globe. Image source: Facebook

Here’s another first for me: a vlogcast with the Literary Globe, a brand new on-line meeting place connecting authors, readers and booksellers. Also: excruciatingly painful for me to see myself on camera but this, I suppose, is the price of fame. You’ll have to turn up the volume, as this interview was recorded at Boekhandel van Rossum on a busy day. 18.05.2017

For Books’ Sake
For Books’ Sake. Image source:

A podcast! This is a first for me, an interview taped over Skype. The lovely Rebecca Wright and I talk about A Room of One’s Own. Where I write and what inspires me to do so. Broadcast #105 by For Books’ Sake on 08.03.2017.

Interview site
Logo calls itself

an on-line personal development community for professional/dynamic women in business of all ages and cultures.

In this interview, I explain (sort of) the various career jumps I’ve made to get me where I am now. Published 03.03.2017.

LCN Legal

This is an interview by Paul Sutton, a ghost from my former life as a corporate lawyer. We talk about China, the law and the transition from law to writing. Published 27.02.2017.

NRC Handelsblad

Here’s a really old newspaper article (14.09.1998!) from NRC Handelsblad entitled Seks van de prez. For those of you who don’t read Dutch, reporter Maarten Huygen berates the media. How could you allow the salacious to take precedence over the serious? I get a (dishonorable) mention for having appeared on Buitenhof, the Dutch version of Meet the Press, and failing to condemn Bill Clinton for having sex with that woman Monica Lewinsky in the workplace.


The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017