Karen Jane Allen (born October 5, 1951) is an American actress most famous for her roles in the films National Lampoon's Animal House (1978, with Dan Aykroyd), Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Starman (1984), and The Sandlot (1993).
Allen was born in Carrollton, in rural central Illinois, to Carroll Thompson Allen, an FBI agent, and Patricia A. (Howell), a teacher. Allen spent her first 10 years traveling around the country with her parents and two sisters. After graduating from DuVal Senior High School, in Lanham, MD at 17, she moved to New York to study art and design at Fashion Institute of Technology. She later attended the University of Maryland, College Park and spent time traveling through South and Central America. In 1974, Allen joined a theater group and three years later moved back to New York and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.
In 1978, Allen made her major film debut in National Lampoon's Animal House and Hollywood took notice. Her next two appearances were in The Wanderers in 1979 and A Small Circle of Friends in 1980, where she played one of three radical college students during the 1960s. The United Artists-release of that film received only limited theatrical exposure, ultimately grossing under $1 million. Her next big role came with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), in which she played the feisty heroine Marion Ravenwood. Allen won a Saturn Award for Best Actress for her role in the film.
Allen also debuted on Broadway in 1982's The Monday After The Miracle. After a few small films including Until September (1984), directed by Richard Marquand, and other stage appearances, she made the successful science fiction film Starman (1984). She often took breaks from movie roles to concentrate on stage acting.
1988 saw Allen return as Bill Murray's long-lost love Claire Philips in the Christmas comedy Scrooged. In 1990, she also portrayed crew member Christa McAuliffe in the controversial television movie Challenger, based on the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
Allen subsequently appeared in Spike Lee's Malcolm X (1992), The Perfect Storm (2000), and In the Bedroom (2001), and made guest appearances on television's Law & Order (1996) and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2001). She also starred in the short-lived series The Road Home (1994), and portrayed the character of Dr. Clare Burton in the video game Ripper (1996).
On July 26, 2007 at ComicCon 2007 it was revealed that she would once again portray Marion Ravenwood in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and an on-set photo of Karen with director Steven Spielberg was posted on the official Indiana Jones website.
After dating Patrick Moore, Allen then in 1988 married actor Kale Browne (who portrayed Christa McAuliffe's husband, Steven, in Challenger) and gave birth to her first child, Nicholas, in 1990. The couple divorced in 1998.
After his birth, Allen took smaller roles in TV and films in order to concentrate on raising Nicholas. Given her affinity for knitting, in 2003 she started her own textile company, Karen Allen Fiber Arts ( http://www.karenallen-fiberarts.com )in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She also teaches acting at Simon's Rock College of Bard, which is also located in Great Barrington.