Date of Birth: 22nd December 1976
Children: Dean Thompson
Karen was first mentioned when her son Dean rang her to inform her that he was going to court. She hung up on him, resulting in him constantly trying to contact her to no avail. He visited Mangrove River and watched from afar as she read and scrunched up a note he left for her in favour of a man. The next day, Karen arrived in Summer Bay and followed Willow back to Justin’s house. Justin rushed off to get Dean and Karen reconciled with her son. Karen exploded at Willow, telling her to mind her own business when she tried to move them on. Later, John had a go at Dean for leaving his community service to go see Karen. When Dean was finishing his last job of the day, Karen drove directly at John and Dean. She crashed her car further up the road. She was admitted to hospital with a cut on her head and begged Dean to let her stay with him. They went back to the Caravan Park where Karen and Dean reminisced about his childhood.
The next day, Karen assured John that she should’ve killed him on her way to speak to Colby about the accident. In Salt, Colby tried to get Karen to agree to seeing a psychiatrist. Instead, she propositioned him, asking to go back to his place. Chelsea caught Karen putting her hand on Colby’s inner thigh, leaving her and Colby both shocked. Afterwards, Dean urged her to see a doctor, but Karen bit his head off. He agreed to having a barbecue dinner with her in order to calm her down. Colby arrived at the Caravan Park, informing Dean that if she didn’t agree to see a psychiatrist, she would be arrested. Karen clicked on to what was happening and did a runner, hitching a lift with a stranger.
After a week, Karen returned to Summer Bay in a car ripping a skid behind the Surf Club. Dean rushed her back to the Caravan Park and tried to talk sense into her. Karen responded by laughing and blasting music, before passing out on his bed from exhaustion. After awakening, Karen flew off the handle when Dean tried to push the idea of seeing a doctor again, believing it was in her best interests. She hit him over the head with a frypan, knocking him unconscious. Later, as Dean remained sprawled on the caravan floor, Karen asked him to stop mucking around, seemingly forgetting her part in his unconsciousness. She attempted to make dinner, but when she turned the gas on she wasn’t able to find any matches. As a result, she resorted to eating leftover pizza, oblivious that the gas was still on.
Willow and Chelsea arrived the next morning and saved Karen and Dean from the gas filled caravan. They were taken to hospital and Dean was given the all clear. When he spoke to Karen, she attempted to emotionally blackmail him, but he could see straight through it. He then signed the form to have Karen involuntarily committed. Down at the beach, Karen apologised to Dean for her behaviour, but it was too late. Colby and Chelsea arrived and took Karen into custody as she told Dean she hated him.
While cleaning out Karen’s house, Dean had flashbacks to Karen’s erratic behaviour when he was a child. He also came across a duffle bag of Karen’s belongings as well as a letter that revealed that AFL star Rick Booth was his father.
Weeks later, Colby and Dean visited Karen to find out information about Colby’s family. Upon their arrival, they learnt Karen had schizoaffective disorder – a hybrid of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. After some initial hesitation, Karen embraced her son. She relayed she’s been on heavy duty drugs, but it’s what she needed. However, Karen knew something else was going on and the boys revealed their real agenda. When Colby mentioned his stepfather Ross’ name, Karen clammed up. She revealed Ross returned to their hometown to kill Colby after the crash, but instead ended up killing Colby’s mother. She urged Colby to stay away from Ross, before ending their visit. Later that night, she called Dean to inform him there’s a Dictaphone in the duffle bag he took from her house. Upon listening to it, Colby and Dean learnt Ross had also previously killed Colby’s father.
In an attempt to pull Dean out of his emotional state, fuelled by nightmares of the day Colby murdered Ross, Willow brought Karen to town. The pair went for a picnic where Dean opened up to Karen, revealing what happened. She was irate that Colby put him in that situation, but believed Ross was where he belonged. After working through Dean’s issues with his nightmares, Karen asked him to visit a psychiatrist to help him through his struggles. Dean promised he would. After a hug, Willow took Karen back to the facility.
Karen was next seen when she wolf-whistled at Ben Astoni in the caravan park. The pair got to know each other over a beer. When Alf saw her, he let Dean know she was back in town. Dean was surprised to see her, but she informed Dean she was released from the psychiatric facility and she would be fine as long as she stayed on her pills. She’d come to stay with him in Summer Bay. Later, the pair went for dinner at Salt, with Dean mindful of avoiding Mackenzie. At dinner, Dean revealed he found Rick. Karen explained they had a drunken night together and she believed it could have been more. However, she was happy to be rid of Rick and his family. The next morning, Dean found Karen’s caravan empty. She had left for an early morning walk, where she met Bella for the first time and learnt about Dean’s relationship with Ziggy. Karen accused Dean of being ashamed of her, being the reason he hadn’t introduced them, but he quickly introduced them when Ziggy confronted him outside her van. The pair quickly clashed.
Ben and Maggie invited Karen and Dean to lunch. Dean reluctantly accepted the offer, making his mother promise not to be embarrassing. At lunch, Karen told the story of how she slept with Dean’s principal to stop him being expelled, which made Maggie uncomfortable. She then put her foot in it by telling Maggie there’s nothing worse than a desperate wife.
After Ziggy and Dean sorted her out with Centrelink, a new phone and some clothes, she decided she wanted a job. After trying at the Diner, she decided she wanted a job at Salt. Dean tried to talk her out of it, but she went behind his back and straight to Mackenzie. After hassling Mackenzie for a job, Dean caught Karen and revealed to her that Mackenzie was his half-sister. She was furious with Dean and blasted him, making the decision to leave town. Mackenzie caught her before she left and convinced her to stay by offering her a job and bonding over their mutual hatred of Rick.
On her first day at Salt, Karen struggled with the technology and got overwhelmed easily. When she gave a plate of sliders to Marilyn, instead of Teresa, in her haste, she spilt the sauce on John. He blasted her and she responded by dumping a jug of water on his head. Afterwards, she collapsed. Dean accused her of faking it and she stormed off. The pair quickly reconciled, but Karen decided to leave town. She convinced Ben to return to Maggie and decided not to ruin Dean’s life anymore. She took a full time job at the Reefton Lakes Leagues Club and left the bay after giving John one last mouthful and permitting Ziggy to have her grandkids. Dean learnt afterwards that she had actually checked herself back into hospital.