Florence Delay is the daughter of Marie-Madeleine Carrez and Jean Delay, a well-known psychiatrist, writer, and member of the Académie Française. She studied at the Sorbonne and became an actress.
In 1962, she played the title role of Joan of Arc in the classic 1962 film Procès de Jeanne d'Arc (The Trial of Joan of Arc), directed by Robert Bresson. She acted in several other films and also worked as a screenwriter. At age 30, she published her first novel, Minuit sur les jeux (Midnight on the Games, 1973). She was awarded the Prix Femina in 1983 for her novel Riche et légère. She has a passion for the theater, and for Spain, and has written, translated, and directed several plays. With Jacques Roubaud, she composed a series of 10 plays about Arthurian legend, Graal Théâtre.
She was elected to the Académie Française herself in 2000 and received the Legion of Honor. She has taught literature at the University of Paris III-Sorbonne. She served as a juror for the Prix Femina from 1978 to 1982, and was a member of the editorial board of the journal Critique (1978-1995). She is married to the film producer Maurice Bernart.