He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1963 with a degree in English, having studied under poets Alan Tate and James Wright. In 1970, he received a Ph.D. from the University of California and began a career at Loyola University New Orleans, where he chaired the English Department and edited New Orleans Review. While at Loyola, he received an NEH summer fellowship to Princeton University and was a participant in the Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Duke University and in The School of Criticism and Theory at Northwestern University.
As one of three editors of New Orleans Review (including poet John Biguenet and fellow English professor John Mosier), Henricksen helped turn the regional magazine into a major organ of critical discussion, bringing such theorists as Frederic Jameson, Jean-Francois Lyotard and others to the pages of the journal. His academic books include Murray Krieger and Contemporary Critical Theory, Reorientations: Critical Theories and Pedagogies, with Thais Morgan, and a widely referenced study of novelist Joseph Conrad entitled Nomadic Voices: Conrad and the Subject of Narrative.
After surgery for throat cancer in 1996, Henricksen returned to Minnesota to live with his new wife, Victoria. There, what had previously been a secondary endeavor, writing fiction, became the primary one. His short stories appeared in numerous magazines, and in 2005 his story collection, Ticket to a Lonely Town, was the only named finalist in the national competition for the Grace Paley Prize. It was published the following year by Atomic Quill Press. Stories in this book are connected by recurrent characters and places, as the collection dramatizes various causes and forms of loneliness. In 2008 his novel, After the Floods (Lost Hills Books) appeared. Praised by the New Orleans Times-Picayune as a "thoroughly enjoyable flight of fancy" and "a spiritual comedy," the novel, set partially in post-Katrina New Orleans, combines magical realism and deconstruction in a manner at once imaginative and excessible. Also in 2008, Henricksen co-edited a volume in honor of a former mentor, From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright (Lost hills Books), to which many of our best-known poets contributed.
As of 2008, Bruce Henricksen lives in Duluth Minnesota. During that year, he spoke on James Wright in libraries in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota. He and a few contributors to the From the Other World also participated in a memorial event for James Wright at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he and Wright first met.