Voice Acting

Spotlight on Katherine Kellgren, Audie Award-Winning Narrator

Katherine Kellgren, though classically trained, sophisticated and sonorous, narrates stories from the depths of her soul, combining talent and skill with pure passion infused by a love of the spoken word, uplifted by her father’s devoted ears.

I was there to see Katherine present at the Audies and also be acknowledged for her talent. Fortunately, I also was present to hear her speak at the BookExpo America Audiobook and Author Tea, discovering more about her creative process and hearing a reading from “Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary ‘Jacky’ Faber, Ship’s Boy.”
Learn more about this lovely and gracious lady who not only walked away with three Audies this year but also with the hearts of those to whom she read.

“I’m Listening”

Before New Yorker Katherine Kellgren became the celebrated narrator that she is today, she studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, seeking her education abroad while keeping ties with home by sending her father a series of recordings that she narrated using a hand-held tape recorder of his favorite detective book from the 1920s in installments on audio cassette.

Each recording was an opportunity to share a special bond with her father, and while perhaps not being done so consciously or deliberately, further develop her narration skills and character voices.
At this time, Kellgren’s father was very sick, so these installments came as a great joy to him. When she returned to New York after her graduation, she read him stories he selected by his bedside for several months. These short months, as it would turn out, were to be the final days of his life.

Just as he appeared to be fast asleep, which was one of the goals while reading aloud to him, Katherine would take a good look to make sure he was at rest and then stop reading, closing the book quietly, only to hear him exclaim from the depths of REM sleep, “I’m listening,” prompting her to pick up the book and start reading again.

Dedication and Motivation

The words, “I’m listening,” continue to echo in Katherine Kellgren’s mind, helping her to get through long days in the recording studio. Buoyed by the acute ears and encouraging voice of her father, she is able to push herself to meet any challenge head on and pursue her work with gusto and meticulous attention to detail.

When doing research for audiobooks that she narrates, and depending on the complexities of the book, it can take up to two weeks to get a full grasp of the characters, the setting, jargon, expressions and dialects required. In studio, it can take between 2 to 5 days to record an audiobook from start to finish.

To be an audiobook narrator, just as an actor prepares for a role, it takes at times the mind and determination of a scholar. Understanding of context, rhythm, and a developing a deep connection to the characters does much for the narrator to help suspend the audience’s disbelief.

Over the years, Katherine has narrated numerous audiobooks, and has won many awards for her work such as the AudioFile Earphones Award, the Peabody Award, and now most recently, several Audie Awards for her work on the sequel to Bloody Jack called “Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady”, including the Audie award categories: Solo Narration – Female, Teens, and Distinguished Achievement in Production.

Have You Listened to Any of Katherine Kellgren’s Work?

If you are a fan or colleague of Katherine, I’d like to invite you to comment. Also, if you are an audiobook fan in general or of the Bloody Jack books, I want to hear from you, too!
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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  • Avatar for Diane Havens
    Diane Havens
    June 2, 2009, 1:29 pm

    She was on the panel at APAC too — great to hear her talk about her experiences and approach. There was not a narrator/actor there who did not strike me as someone who loves doing this work with a passion. It was most inspiring.

  • Avatar for Daniel Wallace
    Daniel Wallace
    June 2, 2009, 1:31 pm

    Long before I chose narration as a career I was in awe of those story tellers who could literally breathe life into the words on the page. One could be visit different places and times while sitting in a car, or walking along.
    The combination of a good writer and a gifted narrator is truly magic. I will definitely be listening to Katherine Kellgren’s work.

  • Avatar for matilda novak
    matilda novak
    June 3, 2009, 2:31 pm

    I have not yet had the opportunity to hear Katherine’s work, but after reading this beautiful article, I will seek her out.
    I am now officially a fan of this lovely young woman. I’m certain her awards are well deserved, and very much look forward to listening.
    Thank you for sharing this story.
    Matilda Novak

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    June 3, 2009, 3:27 pm

    Thank you Diane, Daniel and Matilda for your kind comments and insight.
    I will be reviewing her work soon and look toward to hearing from more of you!
    Take care,

  • Avatar for Mary Burkey
    Mary Burkey
    June 3, 2009, 8:38 pm

    Katy is truly a marvelous actor – she is the only narrator who has appeared on TWO of the American Library Association’s Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production Honor titles!

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    June 4, 2009, 8:35 am

    Hi Mary,
    Thank you for sharing and for introducing yourself to our community! I look forward to visiting your blog in more detail (I clicked through last night) and listening to Katherine talk about her craft.

  • Avatar for Mitali Perkins
    Mitali Perkins
    June 5, 2009, 10:52 am

    A longstanding dream is that Katherine would voice one of my novels. I’m sure she could handle an Indian accent. Thanks for this; will be tweeting a link to it.

  • Avatar for Rick J. Radecki
    Rick J. Radecki
    June 11, 2009, 9:32 pm

    Thanks, Stephanie, for sharing inspiration stories like this about successful folks in the VO biz. My Dad died from cerebral cancer almost twenty years ago, and so I know, firsthand, the pain of losing a parent (and, I am the firstborn and eldest son of the family, so his passing away hurt me probably more so than my siblings).
    My Dad always told me–and, many times it would just drive him crazy to have to admit to this–“Son, you definitely march to the beat of your own drum!” Back then, during all the times he said that, it would upset me, but now–almost twenty years later–I wear such a monicker as a “badge of courage,” a “sign of uniqueness.”
    Your constant e-mails about winning VO professionals inspires me to get my digital multitrack recorder up and running and start getting serious about recording my own stuff. I’ve got a long way to go doing it full-time, but I KNOW I can do this biz and make a more-than-decent living at it much sooner than later. I always tell others that I am a “proud graduate from the ‘School of Hard Knocks,'” and my (meager) talent will take me the rest of the distance.
    Keep sending us these wonderful stories…for me, they inspire me to get out of the dead-end, go-nowhere rut of a regular J.O.B. (“Journey Of the Broke”)!
    Rick J. Radecki

  • Avatar for JM Ray
    JM Ray
    July 16, 2009, 6:28 pm

    Katherine Kellgren is by far the best reader I have ever heard, I am anxiously awaiting the latest installment of the “Bloody Jack” series, “My Bonny Light Horseman.” It’s almost too easy to get lost in the books, her treatment of each character is unique and the musical segments contagious (please don’t prejudge the series by my use of a thesaurus – I am only daring to comment here because of my appreciation of writers/readers who are so talented). I intend to check out more of her work.

  • Avatar for Katherine40
    October 14, 2009, 5:10 pm

    Hey, is your theme a free theme? i really like it and want to change my blog theme!

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    October 15, 2009, 9:57 am

    Hi Katherine40,
    Thank you for commenting and asking me about the blog theme. It was designed in house and is not available for purchase.
    Best of luck to you on your search!

  • Avatar for Emily
    November 4, 2009, 6:49 pm

    I first heard of Bloody Jack through audio books from my library. i was completely amazed by her reading. I later re-read it to myself, but had to get the audio book back out because I lost the voice of Jacky in my head as I was reading. I liked hers so much, I couldn’t stand the voice my head was saying and I’m not even sure my head voice. She did an amazing job on the Bloody Jack series! They are my absolute #1 favorite books ever, but they wouldn’t be complete without the voices!

  • Avatar for David
    January 31, 2010, 6:19 pm

    I have listened to the first two “Bloody Jack” books and am about to listen to the third.
    I was knocked out by Katherine’s performance and did a search on the internet to find out about her. I am delighted that she has won many awards for her work.
    I look forward to listening to more of her work.

  • Avatar for Mark
    February 18, 2010, 2:16 am

    I’m a fan of her narration from The Frog Princess, by E. D. Baker. Haven’t heard any of her other stuff, but I imagine it’s awesome, too, if not better.
    Anyway, you should all become her fans on Goodreads.com. She deserves a whole lot more than two!

  • Avatar for Stephanie Ciccarelli
    Stephanie Ciccarelli
    February 18, 2010, 10:47 am

    Hi Mark,
    Thanks for commenting! I am on GoodReads.com. How does one become a fan of someone on the site?

  • Avatar for Eric
    March 2, 2010, 1:22 pm

    Katherine is amazing, just amazing. In the Bloody Jack series, her ability to give such a distinct and separate voice to each character really brings them alive. She does such great job with the dialects and accents, sometimes she even does a character with an accent putting on an accent, amazing! Also, the singing of the sea shanties and such in the Bloody Jack series brings such richness to the stories. Katherine is wonderful at what she does, and I’m glad we get to share in it.

  • Avatar for Ron Culverhouse
    Ron Culverhouse
    October 17, 2010, 8:40 pm

    We now have a new favorite reader, Katherine Kellgren! Our old favorite was the “cat who” audio books, I didn’t think any one could top them. I was wrong! Katherine makes everyone come alive, especially Jacky. It must be a real experience to meet her in real life. Thank you for your hard work to entertain us with your reading.

  • Avatar for kpearl
    February 13, 2011, 12:40 pm

    I am amazed at all these comments praising Ketherine Kellgren’s readings for I am having such a difficult time listening to her narrating “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.” Her interpretation of nearly any character in the book comes out as a hard, thin, crackle, with bad accents. Her portrayal of Connie’s dissertation mentor is particulary difficult to listen to. His voice is so thin and harsh, he sounds nearly 100, pendantic, and not at all Brahmin nor Boston. I wonder as I listen why she doesn’t use a full-bodied, deep voice, even basso-profoundo-style for some of the male characters? Most of them, other than a few female characters, all sound alike. I don’t think she has much versatility.
    (And since when is “Mercy” pronounced as “Marcy”?)
    I will not purchase a book read by Katherine Kellgren again, sorry to you all who seem to love her.

  • Avatar for VOX Daily Reader
    VOX Daily Reader
    March 29, 2011, 12:45 pm

    Last week I finished listening to Katherine’s reading of Connie Willis’ “Blackout” and “All Clear.” Her ability to create different voices (and to flip back and forth) for each character was amazing. I was really impressed with “All Clear” where she did a conversation between Colin who was British and an American couple. As someone else stated, she breathes life into the pages. She’s on the top of my voice actor list along with Jim Dale!

  • Avatar for Terry
    April 27, 2011, 9:07 pm

    I’m another fan. I think Katherine was perfect for Jackie Faber. If I read the books myself I hear Katherine’s voice in my head. I listen to a lot of audio books, and she’s one of the best.
    Thanks for the article.

  • Avatar for Lee Cousins
    Lee Cousins
    May 31, 2011, 8:13 am

    I love Katherine. I am listening to Connie Willis’ fantastic novels about timetravel into WWII and Katherine’s voice and different accents are wonderful. I wish she would narrate more adult books for Audible and less children’s books. Such a talent!!!

  • Avatar for Ann Marie
    Ann Marie
    January 6, 2012, 12:42 pm

    I happened to pick up the 2nd Bloody Jack book on CD and was hooked. From now on when choosing a book to listen to(which I do quite a bit) I will surly make my choice to be Katherine Kellgren. I love her ability to switch voices. She’s perfect for Jacky Faber.

  • Avatar for Richard Bennett
    Richard Bennett
    February 1, 2012, 2:20 pm

    Just listened to Katherine reading Bloody Jack! Bloody marvellous. I had to search out more about Katherine and really pleased to find she is such a well recognised talent. Thank you Katherine.

  • Avatar for Robert Delikat
    Robert Delikat
    February 27, 2012, 2:10 pm

    I am not usually drawn to the genre of the Bloody Jack ilk. That is not until I listened to the Katherine Kellgren productions of the exploits of the infamous Jacky Faber. Ms. Kellgren’s voice hooked me almost immediately and I listened to book after book of the series. Sure the stories were great but the narration, nay, the performance of the reader made the just spectacular.
    I just finished listening to the all-star cast recording of Bram Stoker’s Dracula which features Katherine Kellgren as Mina Murray-Harker and Lucy. As always, she is just great.

  • Avatar for Tim Liles
    Tim Liles
    May 19, 2012, 6:35 am

    I actually started listening to the Bloody Jack series starting with The Curse of the Blue Tatoo, 2nd in the series, but I was so amazed at the narration because it took a really fun story and brought it to life. Katherine is a master of voices. Though many narrators do a good job in creating distinct voices for their characters, she takes those voices way beyond what is typically found on an audiobook. I love the British accent and she performs those accents in so many different and colorful ways that you’d swear she was British herself. I have now listened to all of the Bloody Jack books and am eagerly looking forward to the new story coming out sometime this year. I like the character of Jacky Faber because she reminds me of my first girl friend and first love. I have often wondered if a movie would do Katherine’s audio narration any justice and I highly doubt it. When somebody finds their destiny, they can propel themself into history.

  • Avatar for Bil Pink
    Bil Pink
    November 23, 2012, 7:08 am

    wonderful article! I’ve recently been listening to Katherine narrating Jay Lake’s novel “Green”… her incredible characterisation, great pacing and perfect clarity add so much to the experience. She has, too, some truly lovely ideosyncrasies of diction which are just the icing on the cake.

  • Avatar for Cynthia Idle
    Cynthia Idle
    April 1, 2013, 10:27 am

    I have become a fan of Katherine Kellgren after listening to her reading of the “Her Royal Spyness” series by Rhys Bowen. She made the stories come to life. I listened to these books while my own father lay in the hospital during the last months of his life.
    I cannot wait to hear more stories read by Katherine! I will now seek her as the reader as diligently as I used to seek out my favorite authors.
    Thank you, Katherine!

  • Avatar for Katherine Kellgren fan
    Katherine Kellgren fan
    April 21, 2013, 8:49 pm

    She’s my favorite female audiobook reader. I bought all of Nancy Springer’s “Enola Holmes” books mainly because I love Katherine’s reading skill. I think I’m addicted to her voice cause I now feel the need to get my hands on every audiobook that she has read. I will be getting the “Bloody Jack series” soon.

  • Avatar for Audible Listener
    Audible Listener
    May 24, 2013, 11:50 pm

    I have recently come across the Bloody Jack books on Audible, and I can say with certainty that in my entire library of audiobooks, amassed over twelve years of being an Audible customer, I have never (NEVER) enjoyed any (ANY) audiobook as much as I have enjoyed Katherine Kellgren’s excellent performance of the Bloody Jack series. She is exquisite! Thank you for profiling her in this article. I will gladly purchase ANY book Ms. Kellgren performs from this day forth, and may she enjoy a long and highly lucrative career in audiobook performance!

  • Avatar for Emmie
    June 17, 2013, 11:46 am

    I first listened to Bloody Jack and then I was hooked… I have listened to all the Bloody Jack books and I love them all. I cannot get enough. I have already pre-ordered “Boston Jacky” and can hardly wait for it to arrive in my mailbox. Katherine is wonderful and I am in awe of the never ending accents she delivers. I especially like the character, Mike Fink from Mississippi Jack, what a nut… I will continue to seek out audiobooks narrated by Katherine. She is an absolutely wonderful performer and I could listen to her all day and all night long. Thank you for this article.

  • Avatar for Barbara Crim
    Barbara Crim
    January 18, 2014, 1:18 pm

    I discovered Katherine Kellgren’s reading of Rhys Bowen’s Spyness Mysteries just after Christmas, and I am hooked. I think I could never read these books now without her voice. She is the best! My daughter is also reading the same books, read by Katherine. And we constantly rave to one another about her ability to make a story come alive. We are looking forward to The Molly Brown series by Rhys Bowen, and hoping Katherine will be the reader. We are both recent fans of audio.com and LOVE listening to books on audio, especially when we need to be working at other tasks that will allow us to listen to books at the same time.