By Kim Mohr, Contributing Writer
If three-time Emmy winner Karen Schaler sees a door closing, she “jumps through a window.”
Lately, the window has been adorned with wreaths and mistletoe. The mantra has led the Cal State Fullerton alumnus (Class of 1987), television war correspondent turned novelist and screenwriter, to unimaginable success. In just three years, Schaler has written five Christmas novels and five Christmas movies, a feat that has earned her the nickname “Christmas Karen.”
It’s a nickname she wears proudly, after her 2017 ‘A Christmas Prince’ became the first-ever original Christmas movie for Netflix and is among her most-watched films.
This season, the charismatic Schaler released another holiday feel-good offering: her new novel, “A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale.”
Schaler’s road to Yuletide bliss was no accident, though the path she took to get there was filled with brave leaps and daring moves.
“I’ve been preparing since I was 10. So when the door opened for me, I was ready,” Schaler said.
In elementary school, Schaler set her sights on Cal State Fullerton’s communications program. Being from out of state, she knew tuition would be high, so she focused her efforts on gymnastics and was about to get a scholarship. Then, an injury stopped Schaler in his tracks. Determined not to give up on her dream, at age 17 she came to California to live with a family acquaintance in order to establish residency and attend school the following year.
It wouldn’t be the last time Schaler uprooted himself to pursue his dreams.
At Cal State Fullerton, Schaler earned a double major, highlighting Ronald Dyas’ screenwriting class as formative in his education. “It was a dream,” she says fondly.
But Schaler was on to a serious career as a journalist. She credits CSUF for giving her hands-on experiences that prepared her for this career. She remembers hearing legendary broadcaster Peter Jennings talk about the role of journalists as society’s watchdog.
“The Underdog stories are my favorite,” Schaler said. It’s a theme she’s carried as her career has developed.
After graduating, she went to tell these stories. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in several markets and even worked for CNN. For a mission, she was embarked in Afghanistan for a month to work on a documentary that would tell the stories of the soldiers she accompanied. In one life-changing incident, she was present with soldiers taking cover during a bombardment. During these moments, the soldiers would talk about what they would do if they got away with it. Many have spoken of finally taking that trip of a lifetime with a loved one.
When she returned home, Schaler intended to leave for another tour of Afghanistan. But the station she worked for said they wouldn’t be able to fire her. Schaler uprooted again, moving to New York to pursue a new dream: she wrote a travel book, then made videos promoting the book.
“I was working four different jobs seven days a week to launch my travel show,” she recalls. The result was “Travel Therapy”, for which she traveled to 68 countries to tell the most inspiring stories she could find.
After an injury forced a two-week hiatus from the show, she turned to the Hallmark Channel and began studying the mechanics of the Christmas movies she loved.
“I knew there was a formula,” she said. She would sit with her notebook, taking notes that would help guide her to a winning effort. There was just one problem: it was summer. Thinking she couldn’t sell a Christmas movie in July, she first wrote a romantic comedy. Using her journalistic skills, she found the personal email address of a producer. He was interested. But her needs lay elsewhere: Did Karen have a script about Christmas, perhaps focusing on royal characters?
“As a good reporter looking for a break, I said, ‘Of course I do. “”Of course she didn’t.
Schaler got to work and “A Christmas Prince” was born. Two sequels followed. And his “Christmas Camp” is the trifecta: a book, a movie, and a real or virtual experience that gives Schaler a chance to interact with his fans to celebrate traditions, swap recipes, watch movies, and Moreover. (Find out how you can participate in the accompanying story.)
This Christmas, like so many before, you won’t find Schaler huddled by a fire with a good Christmas book or hosting one of her virtual Christmas camps. She has always volunteered at Christmas, lending a helping hand to the underserved on a day when they might need to borrow some of Schaler’s contagious spirit.
“It brings me so much joy,” she says.
Today, the former journalist is now the subject of reports. She’s been featured on Forbes and the “Today” show, among many others. What advice does she have for CSUF students who find themselves where she once sat?
“Bet on yourself. That’s what I try to do every day. »
On practical matters, Schaler says, “Write a story you can sit with for years to come. It must be something you are passionate about. Don’t chase fads.
“And take business class!”
Prepare your socks for Christmas camp
Karen Schaler has many of the same Christmas traditions as all of us: telling stories of how each ornament came to adorn the Christmas tree, writing Christmas cards and, of course, watching a great Christmas movie.
But these days, she has a new holiday tradition that’s helping her reach more fans than ever. Inspired by his novel and the Hallmark Channel movie of the same name, Schaler’s Christmas Camp brought audiences large and small to virtual gatherings to celebrate the season.
During the free sessions, groups personalize their Christmas content. Whether it’s reading Christmas stories, dressing up in pajamas to bake cookies (Schaler includes one of her grandmother’s recipes in each book) or whipping up the perfect Christmas cocktail, fans flock to party virtual mixers.
Gatherings can take place at any time of the year; but now Schaler is aiming for a return to safe, in-person events, with “pop-up” Christmas camps in California potentially on the horizon.
Those whose busy holiday schedules don’t allow for an official Christmas Camp can host their own with Schaler’s downloadable DIY Christmas Camp. Visit karenschaler.com/books/current-giveaway/ to get Christmas cheer delivered to your inbox.