Telles was born in Sao Paulo and spent most of her childhood in the small towns of the state. She holds degrees in law and physical education and started publishing in the 1940s when she was very young. Since then, she has published three novels, a half dozen novellas, and seven short-story collections. In 1969 she was awarded the Cannes Prix International des Femmes for her short story "Before the Green Masquerade." In 1973, The Girl in the Photograph won her various literary prizes. Today, she is considered one of the finest women writers in Brazil and is one of the few women elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Margaret A. Neves has translated work by Jorge Amado, Antonio Torres, Moacyr Scliar, and Edgard T. Ribeiro.