Harris was born in Oxford in 1972 and brought up in Scotland. She studied Zoology at Oxford University, followed by an M.A. in Theatre Direction at Hull University. She has been commissioned and produced by the Royal Court Theatre, Royal National Theatre, the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company, amongst others.
One of the first plays by Zinnie was 'Not for the Fanfare' in the early eighties. A moving tribute to the men and women who took a stance from Scotland agausr Franco in Spain. - Harris's play By Many Wounds was produced by Hampstead Theatre in 1999, and was shortlisted for the Allied-Domecq and Meyer-Whitworth playwriting awards. Her second play, Further than the Furthest Thing was directed by Irina Brown and co-produced by the Tron Theatre, Glasgow and the Royal National Theatre, London in 2000. The play tells the story of the island of Tristan da Cunha and its inhabitants following a volcanic eruption in 1961. It won an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, the Peggy Ramsay Award, and the John Whiting Award and was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. The actress Paola Dionisotti won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award for her performance as Mill in the original production. In the same year Harris was shortlisted for the Evening Standard Most Promising Playwright Award. Further than the Furthest Thing has been translated into multiple languages and performed across the globe, often being described as a "modern classic".
Her next play Nightingale and Chase, was produced by the Royal Court Theatre, London 2001 and co-commissioned by Clean Break. A trilogy of plays followed for the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh - Solstice (2005), Midwinter (2004) and Fall (2008). Midwinter was given an Arts Foundation Fellowship Award for playwriting and shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. It has been performed many times in translation, notably at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Sweden (2005)  and at La Cartoucherie, Paris (2010).
In 2011 the National Theatre of Scotland commissioned and performed The Wheel, directed by Vicky Featherstone. The play won an Edinburgh Fringe First Award, was joint winner of the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, and shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award. The Wheel had its U.S. debut at the Steppenwolf Theater of Chicago in 2013, directed by Tina Landau and starring Joan Allen. Harris' play Solstice had its U.S. debut at the Red Orchid Theatre in Chicago in January 2014, directed by Karen Kessler.
Harris has written a number of shorter plays; The Garden for the Traverse Theatre (2010); The Panel for the Tricycle Theatre London for the Women, Power and Politics Season (2010); and From Elsewhere: The Message / From Elsewhere: On the Watch for the Tricycle Theatre as part of The Bomb: a Partial History Season (2012).
In 2015, The Royal Court Theatre produced Harris's new play, How To Hold Your Breath at the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs. It starred Maxine Peake and Michael Schaeffer and was directed by Vicky Featherstone.
Harris adapted and directed Julie, an adaptation of Strindberg's Miss Julie, for the National Theatre of Scotland in 2006. For the Donmar Warehouse, London, she adapted Ibsen's A Doll's House in 2009, relocating the setting to Downing Street in 1909, exploring politics and scandal. By coincidence, Harris's new version opened in the week the Westminster MP's expenses scandal broke in the UK press. Gillian Anderson played the role of Nora, and Christopher Ecclestone the part of Kelman (Krogstad). A subsequent production opened at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in April 2013 in a co-production with the National Theatre of Scotland.
- Born with Two Mothers (Windfall Films / Channel 4), screened 2005.
- Richard is My Boyfriend (Windfall Films / Channel 4), screened 2007.
- Spooks (Kudos / BBC1), series 5, 6 and 8.
- Partners in Crime, Miniseries. 2015.
- Snatches: Moments from Women's Lives, 1 episode. 2018.
- By Many Wounds, Faber and Faber (1998)
- Further than the Furthest Thing, Faber and Faber (2000)
- Nightingale and Chase, Faber and Faber (2001)
- Midwinter, Faber and Faber (2004)
- Solstice, Faber and Faber (2005)
- Julie, Faber and Faber (2006)
- Fall, Faber and Faber (2008)
- Plus Loin que Loin, Quatre Vents (2008)
- Hiver : Suivi de Crépuscule, Quatre Vents (2008)
- A Doll's House, Faber and Faber (2009)
- Women, Power and Politics, Nick Hern Books (2010)
- The Wheel, Faber and Faber (2011)
- The Bomb: A Partial History, Oberon (2012)
- How To Hold Your Breath, Faber and Faber (2015)
Honours and awards
- Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, Saturday 21 April 2012
- New Theatre Quarterly 68: Volume 17, Part 4: v. 17
- The New Order of War (At the Interface/Probing the Boundaries), Ed. Bob Brecher
- Hundra År På Nybroplan, pub. Stockholmia Förlag 2007
- "Professor Zinnie Harris FRSE - The Royal Society of Edinburgh". The Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2018-03-14.