Jennings grew up on a farm near Griffith, New South Wales. She attended the University of Sydney in the late 1960s, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours. She was active in feminist and left wing-movements, in particular gaining notoriety for an incendiary speech given before a Vietnam Moratorium march in 1970 — a speech that is credited as signaling the beginning of the second wave of feminism in Australia.
She also edited Mother I'm Rooted, an anthology of women poets which was the object of much controversy.
She moved to New York City in 1979, where she wrote for numerous magazines and newspapers, as well as doing a stint on Wall Street as a speechwriter. In 1983, she met Bob Cato, a graphic designer, photographer, and collagist who helped turn the record album into an important form of contemporary art. They were married in 1987; he died in March 1999.
Her brother, Dare, was the creative force behind the Mambo clothing empire. His latest venture is Deus Ex Machina, a motorcycle and clothing business.
Her poetry and short stories were well received, but she came into her own with her novels. Her first, Snake was described variously as "lethal and fast-moving" (Publishers Weekly), "a narrative of pure anguish" (Times Literary Supplement), and "possessing a holographic shimmer" (New York Times Book Review). It was reported to have just missed the Booker Prize shortlist. Moral Hazard has been called "humane and unsparing; witty, unsettling, and wildly intelligent" by Shirley Hazzard, author of The Transit of Venus.
Jennings was awarded the Christina Stead Prize for fiction for Moral Hazard, which was also shortlisted for the 2003 Miles Franklin Award, the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize, and the Tasmania Pacific Region Prize. Snake was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, as was Moral Hazard.
Both books contain strong autobiographical elements, Snake being about a girl growing up on a Riverina farm in the 1950s, and Moral Hazard about a couple facing Alzheimer's in the husband while the wife works as a speechwriter on Wall Street.
In 2008, she published Stanley and Sophie, a memoir ostensibly about her dogs but also about life in New York City after 9/11, politics in the U.S. and her encounters with two macaques in Bali at the time of the 2005 bombing there.
In March 2010, she published "Trouble", an autobiographical collection of her best work from the last four decades, covering topics from politics, morality, finance, feminism and the writing life.
Jennings is also known for writing outspoken essays and op-eds on the state of fiction, the direction of feminism, malfeasance in the financial industry, and the abuse of language in the business world. Andrew Field, a prominent Nabokov scholar, describes Jennings as a "ferocious truth-teller, He also cites her "humor, her obdurate individuality, and her willingness to say what other people won't."
|1991 winner||Steele Rudd Award||for Women Falling Down in the Street|
|1993 winner||NBC Banjo Awards, NBC Turnbull Fox Phillips Poetry Prize||for Cats, Dogs and Pitchforks|
|1998 winner||Mildura Writer's Festival, Philip Hodgins Memorial Medal|
|2003 shortlisted||The Miles Franklin Award||for Moral Hazard|
|2003 winner||Australian Literature Society Gold Medal||for Moral Hazard|
|2003 winner||NSW Premier's Award, Christina Stead Prize for Fiction||for Moral Hazard|
|2003 winner||Adelaide Festival Fiction Prize||for Moral Hazard|
- "Best Business Books of the Millennium: Business Novels", Strategy+Business Q4 2001
- "Gutless Fiction" Australian Financial Review, 26 August 2005
- "The Serious Business of Literature" Los Angeles Times Book Review, 11 May 2003
- "Less is More" Prospect magazine, February 2003
- "To Hell with the Future" Australian Financial Review, May 2009
- Letting in the Sunlight The Business Writer
- "An Otter's Life: Learning to Swim" The Monthly magazine, December 2010-January 2011 issue 
- Save Me, Joe Louis (1998)
- Bad Manners (1993)
- Snake (1996)
- Moral Hazard (2002)
- "Doublethink on Wall Street" Financial Times 10 May 2002
- "The Hypocrisy of Wall Street Culture" New York Times, 14 July 2002
- "Among the Strong and the Shrewd" Australian Financial Review, 2 May 2003
- Short Story Collections
- Women Falling Down in the Street (1990)
- Mother I'm Rooted (1975)
- Stanley and Sophie (2008)
- Trouble (2010)
- "New York Times 20 March 1999, obituary by Nick Ravo". NY Times. 20 March 1999.
- "Mildura Writers' Festival, Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 July 2006". Arts Festival 07 Mildura/Wentworth. Archived from the original on 8 June 2007. Retrieved 4 August 2007.
- Kate Jennings portrait
- Kate Jennings at Random House Australia
- Mildura Writer's Festival
- Kate Jennings. Interview with Julie McCrossin. Radio National, Life Matters, 23 May 2002.
- Interview with Elliot Perlman, May, 2008
- Reviews of Snake
- "Scenes from a Mismarriage" Carol Shields, New York Times Book Review, 11 May 1997
- Snake Review by Michelle Huneven, Los Angeles Times, 27 July 1997
- "Snake Classic" Review by Evelyn Juers Australian Book Review, August 1996
- Reviews of Moral Hazard
- Moral Hazard Amanda Craig, New Statesman, 15 April 2002
- American Life and Casualty Review by Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post, 13 June 2002
- Moral Hazard, Review by Charles Taylor, Salon, 20 June 2002
- Moral Hazard, Review by Amanda Lohrey, The Age, 18 May 2002
- Review of Stanley and Sophie
- "Dog Days and New York Nights" by Michelle de Kretser, The Age 5 March 2008