James Karen was born in Wilkes -Barre, in northeast Pennsylvania. His parents Mae (nee Freed ) and Joseph H. Karnofsky were Jewish, Russian-born, immigrants.
As a young man Karen was encouraged by Congressman Daniel J. Flood to a career as an actor. This was an amateur mime and Karen had hired for a production at a local theater in Wilkes - Barre. James Karen later attended a drama school in New York City.
Karen worked in various soap operas. In As the World Turns, he plays Dr. Burke and in the series All My Children, he was the first performer of the Lincoln Tyler. He became better known by the role of Eliot Randolph in Eight Is Enough and his role in the horror movie The Return of the Zombies come. The audience at the U.S. east coast, he is also known as a spokesman for the advertising spots for the supermarket chain Pathmark, where he worked for two decades.
Karen was for a time married to the folk singer Susan Reed. From this connection a child went forth. Later he divorced and now lives with his second wife, Alba Francesca.
1986 Karen was nominated for his role in The Return of the Living Dead for the Saturn Award for Best Actor. In 1998 he recorded with the Life Career Award at the Saturn Awards.