A 20th-century fiction writer who set her novels in the Southern Appalachian region of the United States, she is known for such acclaimed works as Hunters Horn (1949) and The Dollmaker (1954). Her later works include The Kentucky Trace (1974) and a memoir entitled Old Burnside (1977).
She was able to publish one of her earliest stories in Esquire magazine by using a pen name and a photo of her brother-in-law. In 1936, she published her debut novel, Mountain Path.
Her novel, Hunter's Horn, beat out George Orwell's famous work, 1984, for the Saturday Review's Best Novel award. Her other work, The Dollmaker, was the runner-up for the 1955 National Book Award.
She was born in Wayne County, Kentucky, and she grew up in nearby Pulaski County. The daughter of two teachers, she attended both Berea College and the University of Louisville.
Actress Jane Fonda starred in the film adaptation of Arnow's 1954 novel, The Dollmaker.