Kristel Thornell was born in Sydney, Australia, and has also lived in Italy, Mexico, Canada, Finland and the US. Her first novel, Night Street, co-won the 2009 Australian / Vogel Literary Award and won the 2011 Dobbie Literary Award and the 2010 Barbara Ramsden Award. It also won the 2012 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for the best book written in Western New York. Night Street was shortlisted for the Glenda Adams Award and the Christina Stead Prize for fiction in the 2011 NSW Premier's Literary Awards, and has been included since 2014 in the Victorian Curriculum Authority's Text Lists. Night Street was published in North America by Goose Lane Editions.
Thornell was named one of the Best Young Australian Novelists by The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011. Her short fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in publications such as Meanjin, Overland, Southerly and Mosaic. She has contributed reviews to The Fiddlehead and The Sydney Morning Herald/The Melbourne Age. She holds a B.A. in Italian and French (First Class Hons, University Medal) from the University of Sydney, an M.A. from the University of New Brunswick, and a Ph.D. from the Writing and Society Research Group at the University of Western Sydney.
Thornell's new novel, On the Blue Train, was published by Allen & Unwin in 2016. Chinese rights were acquired by Lijiang Publishing. She was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts International Residency in Rome, during which she is working on her next novel.