Atlanta author and speaker finds hope and healing in the darkness

Following a debilitating stroke, Katherine Wolf became and author, speaker and founded a nonprofit to help others heal
Stroke survivor Katherine Wolf has authored her third book, "Treasures in the Dark: 90 Reflections on Finding Bright Hope Hidden in the Hurting." Courtesy of Meshali Mitchell

Credit: Meshali Mitchell

Credit: Meshali Mitchell

Stroke survivor Katherine Wolf has authored her third book, "Treasures in the Dark: 90 Reflections on Finding Bright Hope Hidden in the Hurting." Courtesy of Meshali Mitchell

While the anniversary of Katherine Wolf’s near fatal stroke will never change, her perspective on it has. The memories of April 21, 2008, stung for years and now the trauma is more bearable because Wolf grasped the opportunity to love who she’s become on the other side. It’s lessons like this and more that Wolf writes about in her third book, released April 9, “Treasures in the Dark: 90 Reflections on Finding Bright Hope Hidden in the Hurting.”

“I didn’t wake up to the idea of being a writer until after my stroke,” said Wolf, 42, who is also the author of “Hope Heals” and “Suffer Strong.”

When she was 26, Wolf was an aspiring model and actress, living in Culver City, California, with her husband Jay and their 6-month-old son James. She was cooking meals for members of her church one afternoon when she collapsed in her kitchen. She had suffered a massive brain stem stroke. It was caused by the rupturing of an arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, which usually occurs in the brain or spine. It’s a rare congenital defect Wolf didn’t know she had.

After an intense surgery, 40 days on life support, and a stay at a rehabilitation center, Wolf’s new life began. She worked in therapy to regain abilities, including swallowing and walking. Wolf was allowed to eat again 11 months after her stroke and walked 18 months after.

Many changes to Wolf’s body were permanent. She cannot drive, as she is nearly blind in her left eye and has double vision in her right. She is deaf in her right ear, her face is paralyzed on the right side, and her right hand lacks fine motor coordination.

In 2013, Wolf and Jay launched Hope Heals, a nonprofit that offers rest, resources, and relationships to broken bodies, brains, and hearts.

“Through our ministry I feel called to create sacred spaces of belonging and belovedness,” said Wolf, of Atlanta. “I get to be a living survival guide about how to do life when your heart is broken, when you’re in a body or life you never imagined, when life is pressing on you. It’s a profound gift I’ve been given.”

Though Wolf made many big speeches throughout her school years, including the final sermon at church her senior year of high school, she never fathomed becoming a professional speaker. Now through Hope Heals she travels across the United States for multiple speaking engagements each month.

Hope Heals hosts an annual summer camp for families affected by disability and on April 15 they will open the doors to their new shop in the heart of Buckhead, Mend Coffee & Goods.

“After years of having the camp and recognizing a tremendous need for community, especially for kids with disabilities who age out of schooling and need to earn a living wage, we wanted to create a community hub and provide the dignity of a workplace for those individuals,” said Wolf. “Yes, it’s a coffee shop, but that’s camouflage for a place to be that’s universally designed, super accessible and employs people who are living with outer disabilities. Our big priority is smiling faces of all different kinds of people.”

Courtesy of Harper Collins

Credit: Courtesy of Harper Collins

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Credit: Courtesy of Harper Collins

While Wolf plans to be at Mend frequently, Jay serves as the CEO of that as well as the camp, and Wolf will continue traveling, promoting her new book, and staying busy as a mother.

In 2015, the Wolfs welcomed their second child, John. James, now 16, and John, 8, keep Wolf busy. Her walker and wheelchair don’t prohibit her from being front and center, cheering for her boys at tennis matches, plays, soccer, show choir performances. Wolf is also very involved with Passion City Church, where the family has attended since 2018.

Wolf is excited about her new book and hopes that, through her reflections, readers will embrace their own stories of pain and triumph.

“Who among us feels fully free, even when he can walk on his own?” said Wolf. “Who feels truly beautiful, even when her face is not paralyzed? Who feels completely understood, even without a speech impairment? The answer is a resounding no one. We are all disabled. Some of our wheelchairs are simply on the inside instead of the outside.”

In April, Wolf, along with her friends who serve as travel companions, will travel to Las Vegas, Dallas, and Virginia to speak to audiences about hope. She will open the doors to Mend, watch her book hit the shelves, and she plans to savor the sweetness that is unfolding.

“In ‘Treasures in the Dark,’ entry number 21, I write about how I used a letterboard to type out words after my stroke,” said Wolf. “Over and over I’d type ‘I’m the same on the inside’ and a robot voice would speak the words. What I know now is that I’d never say that, because I’m decidedly not the same and that’s a good thing. Sixteen years later I can say suffering has made me different and that’s the gift of all our suffering. It’s perspective and the things we gain, those are the treasures in the dark.”

To learn more about Hope Heals and Wolf’s new book “Treasures in the Dark,” visit