Cherise Kelley grew up in a family of teachers. Her father, Ronald Morris, taught social studies and history for 30 years at Arcadia High School in Southern California. Her mother is a registered nurse who teaches parents about the special needs of their premature infants. Her sister, Kristine Morris White, is a grand prix level dressage horse trainer. Mrs. Kelley became a teacher herself in 1991 through a "fifth year" of study at San Francisco State University, after earning her bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of California at Berkeley. She has taught English at the college, high school, and middle school level, but prefers to substitute so that she has time for her writing.