Ora Blackmun was a native of Southern Minnesota, but moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas as a teenager. Blackmun earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Arkansas. She did further graduate work at the University of Chicago and at the University of Southern California. She was an associate professor in the English Department of the University of Central Arkansas at Conway. She later moved to Asheville, NC, where she taught at the University of North Carolina Asheville.