Elizabeth Z. Johnson Kostova was born Elizabeth Z. Johnson in New London, Connecticut and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee where she graduated from the Webb School of Knoxville. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, where she won the 2003 Hopwood Award for her Novel-in-Progress. She is married to a Bulgarian scholar.
Her first novel, The Historian, was published in 2005, and it has become a best-seller.
Kostova released her second novel The Swan Thieves on January 12, 2010.