Born in New Orleans, Rice spent much of her early life there before moving to Texas, and later to San Francisco. She was raised in an observant Catholic family, but became an agnostic as a young adult. She began her professional writing career with the publication of Interview with the Vampire in 1976, while living in California, and began writing sequels to the novel in the 1980s. In the mid-2000s, following a publicized return to Catholicism, Rice published the novels Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt and Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana, fictionalized accounts of certain incidents in the life of Jesus. Several years later she distanced herself from organized Christianity, citing disagreement with the Church’s stances on social issues but pledging that faith in God remained “central to [her] life.” However, she now considers herself a secular humanist.
Rice’s books have sold nearly 100 million copies, placing her among the most popular authors in recent American history. While reaction to her early works was initially mixed, she became more popular with critics and readers in the 1980s. Her writing style and the literary content of her works have been analyzed by literary commentators. She was married to poet and painter Stan Rice for 41 years, from 1961 until his death from brain cancer in 2002 at age 60. She and Stan had two children, Michele, who died of leukemia at age five, and Christopher, who is also an author.
In addition to her vampire novels, Rice has authored books such as The Feast of All Saints (adapted for television in 2001) and Servant of the Bones, which formed the basis of a 2011 comic book miniseries. Several books from The Vampire Chronicles have been adapted as comics and manga by various publishers. Rice has also authored erotic fiction under the pen names Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure, including Exit to Eden, which was later adapted into a 1994 film.