With her late husband, songwriter/producer James Johns, Karen Houle Johns wrote and produced a total of ten CD albums including 5 standard jazz albums (PtarminganMusic/Jazz) and prior to that, 5 Christian/Gospel albums (Isaiah12 Records). Born in Washington State and raised in Alaska, from early childhood, Karen Houle Johns was formally trained for ‘triple threat’ performance in voice, dance, and acting. At the Alaska Conservatory of Music, Karen studied voice under Gloria Marinacci Allen (Artistic Director for Opera Las Vegas, former Bella Donna for the Portland Opera, and a Northwest regional judge for the Metropolitan Opera), and music theory under Dr. Timothy Mussard (professor of voice at Baldwin-Wallace College and winner of the 2009 Prix Lauritz Melchior award). By the time she was eighteen, she was a three-time State champion actor, a guest vocalist for the Alaska Light Opera, a soprano in the All-Northwest Choir, and a lead actress/vocalist for Synergy Professional Dinner Theatre. After graduating from Robert Service High School in Anchorage, she attended San Francisco State University where she studied acting and dance. She later transferred to the University of Oregon where she studied voice under Dr. Leslie T. Breidenthal (after serving as a WWII command pilot for the Army Air Corp, Briedenthal received a Fulbright Scholarship for vocal performance in Rome, Italy).  Through the Danish International Studies program at UO, Karen also studied at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and while overseas, she traveled extensively throughout Europe, Czechoslovakia, Russia, and Israel.  Upon her return to the USA, she was awarded the Phi Beta Patrons Scholarship for performing arts. In 1987, she was crowned Miss Lane County, received the Miss Oregon Best Talent scholarship, and was Second Runner-up to Miss Oregon. Throughout her extensive scholastic career, Karen has received eight performing arts and scholastic scholarships.

After college, Karen moved to Seattle where she met her husband, guitarist/bassist James Johns, and the two songwriters formed an original band that performed in venues throughout the Pacific Northwest. To purchase their own professional recording studio, the Johns couple made a unique decision to work for one year on a 350′ fishing vessel in Alaska’s Bering Sea (a favorite topic of interest in some of their Jazz Radio/NPR interviews.) In 1991, Mr. and Mrs. Johns moved to Nashville and began writing and publishing secular and Christian songs for Vital Force (ASCAP). Prior to releasing her own albums, Karen also recorded lead vocals for StormWorks Productions soundtrack recordings, and her rendition of the power ballad, “I Never Had a Love Like You” (composed by Stephen Melillo) was featured in the Miramax film soundtrack, Benefit of the Doubt.  

Ms. Johns with her granddaughter, 2021.

The Johns couple became a family in the mid-90s with the births of their two sons, Gabriel and Ezra. By the late 1990’s, Mr. and Mrs. Johns moved their family to Canada for graduate studies and Karen obtained an MA degree at Canadian Theological Seminary (now Ambrose University). During their four years in Canada, they wrote many more songs and performed with an international Christian bandThey returned to the USA in 2002 and settled in Franklin, Tennessee where Mr. and Mrs. Johns wrote a Taize liturgy for the Episcopal church, and Karen Johns & Company performed jazz concerts throughout the Southeast USA and Australia. She was an active member of the Tennessee Valley Jazz Society, the Tau Sigma National Honor’s Society, and the National Dramatist Guild. Honing her skills as a playwright and librettist, Karen obtained another BA degree from MTSU, and completed the libretto and music score of the two act, swing jazz musical, American Mother Lode. The musical is a tribute to the women of WWII and Ms. Johns sensed it would be her swan song. 

Transitioning from joy to sorrow is never easy and in 2018 as the Johns family was gearing up for a whole new chapter, Karen’s husband, James Edwin Johns, was diagnosed with small cell cancer. To those that knew him, James was a handsome man of immense strength, faith, and love, and though he ‘fought-the-good-fight’ with his family at his side, he passed away in July of 2019. Not long after this untimely and tragic loss, Karen retired from her music career. Retaining only their publishing and production companies, she sold everything else, and peacefully departed Mid-Tennessee. Ms. Johns has settled in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and is currently working on a doctorate degree at Milligan University and reveling in the love of her grandchildren.