Marian Engel was born in Toronto, Canada.
Engel was educated at Sarnia Collegiate Institute & Technical School, Sarnia, Ontario, McMaster University (B.A. in Language Studies 1955) Hamilton, Ontario, McGill University (M.A. in Canadian Literature 1957) Montreal, Quebec and studied on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship at the Université d’Aix-Marseille (French Literature 1960-61), Aix-en Provence, France. At McGill University she wrote her Master’s thesis on the English Canadian novel, under the supervision of Hugh MacLennan.
She taught briefly at The Study (1957–58) (Westmount, Montreal, QC), McGill University and University of Montana-Missoula (Missoula, Montana) and St. John’s School (Nicosia, Cyprus).
Engel was writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta (1977–1978) and at the University of Toronto (1980–1982).
Engel died of cancer in Toronto in 1985.