George Ella Lyon was born in Harlan, a small coal mining town in Kentucky. Her books frequently take place in Appalachia. She married Stephen Lyon, a musician, in 1972, and had two children with him. She earned a B.A. at Centre College in Kentucky in 1971, her M.A. at the University of Arkansas in 1972, and her Ph.D. at Indiana University--Bloomington in 1978.
She first published in 1983, a poetry collection called Mountain. Aside from publishing, she also taught writing at a number of colleges, including the University of Kentucky, Centre College, Transylvania University, and Radford University. She has also acted as an executive committee member for the Women Writers Conference. She currently teaches writing through workshops, conferences, and author visits.
In an article in The Reading Teacher, Sylvia Pantaleo notes that Lyon's A Day at Damp Camp bears characteristics of Dresang's Radical Change theory by having a nonlinear story, which artist Peter Catalanotto loops back to the beginning through the illustrations and images, and text within boxes that resembles "hypertext Web links".