Karo(line) Espeseth grew up in a middle-class milieu and studied at universities in Oslo, Cologne, and Berlin from 1928 to 1930. In 1931 she moved to Germany and married Count Gerhard von Mende, an academy teacher and later professor of Slavic languages at the University of Berlin. They had two children.
Her experience of ill-concealed aggression in German revanchism after World War I led her to write the rhetorically and thematically unusual verse novel Sår som ennu blør, 1931, as a caution against a new, imminent world war catastrophe. Norwegian critics, who interpreted her story about a female Norwegian student’s encounter with a sexually sadistic former front soldier as immoral and perverted, conspired to silence Karoline Espeseth as a writer. In her memoirs Livet gikk videre, 1983, she recounts her life from her childhood up to, and including, the end of World War II.