An acclaimed playwright and screenwriter, the Mississippi-raised Henley attended Southern Methodist University with the intention of pursuing an acting career. While still an undergraduate, she had her first one-act play "Am I Blue", produced. After a brief sojourn at the University of Illinois, Henley moved to L.A. to pursue an acting career. As roles were scarce, she turned to writing, producing two works, "The Moonwatcher" and "Crimes of the Heart". A friend submitted the latter to the 1979 Great American Play Contest at the Actors Theatre of Louisville where it received first prize and a production. After several regional theater mountings, "Crimes of the Heart" opened off-Broadway to critical praise and was eventually moved to Broadway. In 1981, Henley became the first woman in over twenty years to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. While her subsequent theater pieces ("The Wake of Jamey Foster" 1982; "The Debutante Ball" 1985; "The Lucky Spot" 1986-87; and "Abundance" 1989-90) were not as successful, the playwright has generally received favorable notices. Many critics have compared her writings with those of other eccentric Southern writers like Flannery O'Connor and Eudora Welty.