Helena earned a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking biography of a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She served in the financial service industry before joining the U.S. diplomatic corps, where she served in a variety of posts in Africa and Europe. She retired in 2018. She has since published numerous works of fiction and non-fiction, several of which have won one or more literary awards.
Helena was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of a professor, and travelled abroad for the first time at the age of two, when her father went to teach at the University of Wasada in Tokyo, Japan. Later the family lived in Brazil, England and Kentucky, but home was always the coast of Maine. There, her father’s family had roots, and an old, white clapboard house perched above the boatyard in East Blue Hill.
It was the frequent travel and exposure to different cultures, peoples and heritage that inspired Helena to start writing creatively and to focus on historical fiction. She wrote her first novel in second grade, but later made a conscious decision not to try to earn a living from writing. She never wanted to be forced to write what was popular, rather than what was in her heart.
Helena graduated with honors in History from the University of Michigan, added a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Commerce from Patterson School, University of Kentucky, and rounded off her education with a PhD in History cum Laude from the University of Hamburg, awarded for a ground-breaking dissertation on a leading member of the German Resistance to Hitler. She worked in the private sector as a research analyst, and an investor relations manager in both the U.S. and Germany before joining the U.S. diplomatic corps.
Helena published her first book in 1993, when her dissertation was released by a leading academic publisher in Germany; a second edition followed after excellent reviews in major newspapers. Since then she has published three additional non-fiction books, starting with Sisters in Arms about women pilots in WWII, The Blockade Breakers about the Berlin Airlift, and Codename Valkyrie, a biography of General Olbricht, based on her dissertation. This year, her history and description of the crusader states, which pulls together recent, scholarly research into a single volume aimed at non-academics interested in the crusades and the Middle East will be released by Pen & Sword. (See more at:Kingdoms at the Crossroads of Civilizations)
Helena has published historical novels set in World War Two, Ancient Sparta and the Crusades. Her Jerusalem Trilogy, a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin in three parts, won eleven literary accolades including Best Biography 2017 from Book Excellence Awards, Best Religious/Spiritual Fiction 2017 from Feathered Quill Literary Awards, Best Biographical Fiction from Pinnacle Book Awards, and Best Christian Historical Fiction from Readers Favorites. For more details on Helena's awards see: Awards.
In June 2010 she was awarded the “Dr. Bernard LaFayette Lifetime Achievement Award for Promoting the Institutionalization of Nonviolence Ideals in Nigeria” by the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria.
She grew up sailing on the Maine coast and served as a petty officer on the sail-training schooners Sir Winston Churchill and Malcolm Miller. She has owned four horses over the years and remains a resolute horsewoman. She retired to her home in what was formerly Lacedaemon, where she lives with her husband Herbert and her two dogs Max and Roma.
For readers tired of clichés and cartoons, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader offers nuanced insight to historical events and figures based on sound research and an understanding of human nature. Her complex and engaging characters bring history back to life as a means to better understand ourselves.