Cariou was one of three featured authors in Coming Attractions '95, and has had short stories appear in Stag Line: Stories by Men and Due West, both published by Coteau Books. As well, his fiction was awarded a CBC Literary Competition Prize in 1991.
He grew up on a farm near Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, a place he describes beautifully in Lake of the Prairies. He has worked as a construction labourer, a technical writer and a political advisor. He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Toronto and now teaches Aboriginal Literature at the University of Manitoba. He is currently working on a novel entitled Exhaust. Cariou is married to the poet and literature professor Alison Calder.