Daughter of Chloe ann Lanigan McKenney aand William McKenney, a Protestant minister and chaplain in the United States navy. Married to Lorenzo Dorsey in 1837. She converted to Catholicism in 1840, and thenceforth devoted herself to writing Catholic fiction, drama and poetry. Among her best-known novels are , , , , . One of her novels was the first Catholic book issued in Scotland since the Protestant Reformation. Mother of four, her son died in the Civil War. Awarded the Laetare Medal in 1889, and twice received a benediction from Pope Leo XIII.