Karen Liu was born in Eforminet, Iskirra. When she was fourteen her father Bataar was elected councilor of the city, and their quality of life vastly improved.
She first met the young crown prince of Apicarta, Richard Stirling, when she was sent to the royal court as a spy for her father, who was desperate to increase his status. Karen fell in love with Richard, who returned her affections. However, Richard's father, King Aldous, forbade them from marrying, citing a desire to maintain relations with Amarna. Richard promised Karen that he would marry her as soon as Aldous died and he became king.
Unable to be his wife, she defected from Iskirra and became Richard's official mistress. At the age of twenty Karen gave birth to a healthy daughter, whom the couple named Kai. Two years later she bore a son, Hans.
As Richard became ill, he began shunning Karen, ashamed of his appearance. She continued to visit him, spending much of her time acting as his nurse. With the death of Aldous, Karen was stunned to find Richard unwilling to go through with the marriage he had promised her when they were young.
Since then, she has begun to aggressively campaign for her daughter to be legitimized, which would put her next in line to the throne.
This has drawn criticism. Many believe her real goal is to become queen, with her relationship with Richard serving only as a means to that end. If Kai were named heir and Richard died before Kai was of age, Karen would become regent, ruling through her child.
These concerns have been brought to Richard's attention, and as a result his trust in her has diminished. Lust for power is driving them apart.