Karen Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who left a British convent to pursue a degree in modern literature at Oxford. In 1982 she wrote a book about her seven years in the convent, Through the Narrow Gate, that angered and challenged Catholics worldwide; her recent book The Spiral Staircase discusses her subsequent spiritual awakening after leaving the convent, when she began to develop her iconoclastic take on the great monotheistic religions.
She has written more than 20 books around the ideas of what Islam, Judaism and Christianity have in common, and around their effect on world events, including the magisterial A History of God and Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World. Her latest book is The Bible: A Biography. Her meditations on personal faith and religion (she calls herself a freelance monotheist) spark discussion -- especially her take on fundamentalism, which she sees in a historical context, as an outgrowth of modern culture.