Hanna Malewska was born in Jordanowice, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire.
She was educated at a gymnasium for girls in Gniezno. She studied history at the Catholic University of Lublin, graduating in 1933. In 1931, while still a student, she published her first two historical novels, Cabrera and Wiosna grecka (The Greek Spring), which both won prizes. She worked as a history teacher in Warsaw and continued to publish award-winning historical novels until the outbreak of World War II.
During the war, she served in the Polish resistance movement and participated in the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. After the war ended, she settled in Kracow and taught high school history. In addition to writing books, she help found and edited the popular monthly magazine Znak until 1953, when the Communist authorities suspended publication. She went to work as an archivist in the Kórnik Library, housed in a neo-gothic castle near Poznań. In 1957, she returned to work at Znak and in 1960 was named its editor-in-chief. She published more than a dozen books in total, including Przemija postać świata (Passing of the World, 1954), set in 6th-century Italy. In 1973, she retired from Znak and withdrew from public life due to illness, possibly lung cancer, and died of tuberculosis. Today she is considered her nation's most outstanding historical novelist.