Remembering Katherine Kellgren

Our video editor Sue Ellen Beauregard remembers superstar audiobook narrator Katherine Kellgren upon her untimely passing. 


A photo of Katherine Kellgren from the late narrator’s Facebook page


The extraordinary reader of more than 250 audiobooks, Katherine Kellgren passed away on January 10 at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York following a nearly four-year battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

I learned of her passing when I checked Facebook, immediately noticing a beautiful photo of Katy (as she liked to be called), posted by her husband David Cote. My happiness at seeing her photo soon turned to devastation when I read David’s post, as I had no idea Katy was fighting a terminal illness. Obviously close friends, family, and others knew that she was sick, but to many of us in the close-knit audiobook community, the news came as a shock.

Soon tributes, photos, and accolades poured in from librarians, friends, and colleagues, with many containing similar (and true) adjectives, like graceful, brilliant, eloquent, charming, talented, vibrant, loving—well you get the point. Truth is, all these adjectives fit.

Katy was a tremendously talented audiobook reader. Booklist named her Voice of Choice in 2011. She received numerous Audie Awards and starred Booklist reviews. She is the only narrator to have read five Odyssey Honor titles, beginning in 2008 with Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boyto some of us, she will always be Jacky, a girl posing as a boy who embarks on rousing historical adventures. Katy masterfully switched accents and genders to voice Jacky and a large cast of characters. As she told Booklist in 2009, her training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts helped her master regional dialects.

Sharon Grover, a member of the first Odyssey Committee, posted a beautiful tribute to Katy, along with a photo of Odyssey members, dressed in bright blue long-sleeve t-shirts and blue boas; right in the middle of the group stands radiant Katy, clad in the same blue accessories as the committee members, who still refer to themselves as “boa sisters.” To me, that photo sums up what Katy meant to librarians: someone who was one of us. She and her husband traveled together to ALA conventions and the Audie Awards ceremonies, where they embraced the audiobook community—fellow narrators, audio directors, producers, and of course, librarians and audiobook reviewers.

Other postings gave me insight on how her industry colleagues feel about Katy. Both Dan Zitt, Vice President of Content Production at Penguin / Random House, and Paul Gagne, Director of Production at Weston Woods Studios / Scholastic Audio, talked about hiring Katy after she cold-called them. Paul said she is one of the only people the company hired “almost instantly,” and Dan related how Katy came in for an audition 14 years ago as a timid unknown who blew him away.

If you’ve never experienced the beautiful voice of Katherine Kellgren, I encourage you to seek out one of the more 250 audios she’s recorded. You’ll be grateful that her beautiful voice lives on in our ears and minds forever. Gone too soon—beloved boa sister Katy.
Sue Ellen Beauregard

1 Comment on "Remembering Katherine Kellgren"

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  1. Cindy Dobrez & Lynn Rutan says:

    What sad news to arrive in my Booklist Reader email, but a lovely tribute, Sue Ellen. I’ve enjoyed every one of her audio books I’ve gotten my hands on and will continue to listen to her voice as I work my way through more. Katy will be missed by many. Xoxo to her family and close friends. –Cindy

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