Karen Marie Lewis was born June 15, 1968, in Oxford, Mississippi, to Paul and Alice Lewis. Paul owned and operated Lewis's Hardware, and Alice helped him run the business. They had one other child, a boy who was three years older than Karen.
Karen had a happy childhood and breezed through her school years. An exceptional student, she worked hard to maintain a 4.0-grade point average in high school. Some described her personality as domineering, but even so, she was well-liked by everyone. Though Karen enjoyed being with her friends, between school and her part-time job at a coffee shop, she didn't have a lot of time for socializing.
Her parents had hopes that Karen would attend a prestigious school to become a doctor or lawyer, but Karen had other plans. During her senior year of high school, she fell in love with a man named Kevin, and they planned to marry someday. She chose to stay in Oxford and attend the University of Mississippi School of Business, where she would be close to both Kevin and her family.
Shortly after her graduation with a bachelor's degree in business, Kevin died in a hunting accident. Karen was devastated. Her plans had been to further her education, but after Kevin's death, she no longer had the desire. With her parents' encouragement, she applied for a job as the secretary for Philip Fontaine, an Oxford real estate developer. At the interview, he liked her and hired her on the spot.
At the time of Philip Fontaine's death, she had been in his employ for 25 years. She cared very much for her boss, and in her eyes, he could never do any wrong. Karen was crushed to hear the news of his demise.