Alki Zei was born in Athens and passed her early childhood in Samos, where her mother was from. When she went to school her family first moved at Maroussi and later in Athens. She studied philosophy at the University of Athens, drama at the Athens Conservatory and scenario writing at Moscow Cinema Institute.
She started writing very young. At high school she wrote some pieces for the puppet theatre. One of the characters she created became later one of the main heroes of the Athens Puppet Theatre "Barba Mytoussis". She continued writing by publishing a series of short stories in Neaniki Foni (Young Voice), a magazine for young people directed by a team of intellectuals of that time. She kept writing short stories and novelettes during the years of her stay in the Soviet Union that were occasionally published in literary magazines in Greece.
She married to the theatre play writer Giorgos Sevastikoglou (died in 1991) and had two children. Since the years of the German occupation in Greece during Second World War, she has fought actively for freedom, social justice and democracy, being part of the left wing movement. She has suffered a lot for her involvement to that cause. From 1954 to 1964 she lived as a political refugee in the Soviet Union. In 1964 she returned with her family in Greece, but in 1967 they had to leave again, this time to Paris, chased by the dictatorship. She returned after the reconstitution of the parliamentary republic in 1974 and lives ever since in Athens.
The clear cut way of her writing, the linguistic integrity, the critical attitude towards persons and situations, her humour and the penetrating view to facts, are the dominant characteristics of Alki Zei's works. Achille's fiancee, Wildcat under glass and Petros' war, are included in the classic best sellers of contemporary Greek literature.
Except Achille's fiancee, all her books address mainly to children and teenagers, but are always read with great pleasure by adults as well. They are inspired by her personal experiences, weaving along the recent history of Greece, treating meanwhile universal subjects. Wildcat under glass, her first novel, has been a milestone for Greek children's literature. Almost fifty years after its first publication, it is now considered a classic book of the international literature for children.
Alki Zei's entire work is translated in various languages around the world. She has also translated books for children from French, Italian and Russian, among which Gianni Rodari's and Vera Panova's works.