Salley Vickers was born in Liverpool. Her parents were members of the British Communist Party: her mother was a social worker and her father a poetry-loving trade union leader who named her Salley (an anglicisation of the Irish word for willow) from W.B. Yeats' poem: "Down by the salley gardens".
Salley won a scholarship to St Paul's Girls' School, and later read English at Cambridge. She has worked as a cleaner, dancer, artist's model, special needs teacher, university teacher of English literature, and analytical (Jungian) psychotherapist. She is also a mother and grandmother. Salley is now a full-time writer, and lectures on art, literature, psychology and religion, and the connections between them.
Other interests include opera, poetry, bird-watching and dancing.