She was born in Menemen, İzmir in 1944. Her mother is Füruzan Hanım and her father is a military officer, Ertuğrul Alatlı. She is a kin to the famous playwright Musahipzade Celal on the maternal side of her family. Alatlı received her education in many different places. Because of her father's job, she went to primary and secondary school in different parts of Turkey. She went to a high school in Tokyo. She graduated from the department of Economics at Middle East Technical University, in 1963. Later, she got MAs in the field of Economics in Vanderbilt University, USA, for which she received a Fulbright scholarship in 1965, and in the field of Philosophy in Dartmouth College in 1968. She worked as a faculty member at the department of Economics in Canaan College in 1968-1969. Then, she worked at Istanbul University for a while. Between 1970 and 1972, she worked at the State Planning Organization. Returning from Ankara to the USA, she carried out her work in the field of psycholinguistics at California University until 1974. Coming to Istanbul, the author worked as the editorial director of Bizim English, a journal focusing on English language training, which was published by the Cumhuriyet newspaper in the years 1981 and 1984.

Her essays, discussion pieces and research papers were published in journals, such as Yazko, Nokta, Sur, Cönk and İnsan ve Teknoloji. She also took on the position of vice chairman in Yazko for a while. From novel to poetry, she had many works in different fields of literature, including some translations. Her first novel Yaseminler Tüter mi Hala? was published in 1984. Including "Medal of Independence" given by Yasser Arafat in 1986 and Writers Union of Turkey Novel Award, which she received for her novel İşkenceci in 1987, she received many awards. In 1993, Interpress gave her the Most Successful Women of The Year, Literature Award and in 1998, Kombassan Vakfı awarded her with the Grand Mevlana Prize. Additionally, in 1998, she was one of the Sabah Media Group's 75 Women in 75 Years.

Her four novels, which she published between 1992 and 1994, are called "Or’da Kimse Var mı? tetralogy." She published her work Schrödinger’in Kedisi: "Kabus" and "Rüya" as two volumes in 1999 and 2001. After that, the trilogy of "Gogol’un İzinde" was published. The later works of the author mostly include discussion and opinion pieces. In some of her works, a nationalist-conservative line stands out. Alatlı is criticised by writers such as Gün Zileli because of her relation to the governing party and the increasing dominance of her nationalist-conservative line in her works. Zileli states that in an intellectual context, this tendency may be seen as positive for the government but it constitutes a problem for the author herself. According to the critic, her ideological tendency puts Alatlı into a difficult position as a person who supports the freedom of thought and press. Zileli's criticism became even more meaningful, when the conservative newspaper that Alatlı writes for refused to publish her piece on the issue of turban, a topic which she writes about and discusses frequently, on the grounds that "their readership was not ready for it."

Alev Alatlı still lives in Istanbul. She is the head of the Board of Trustees at Kapadokya Vocational High School. She sometimes works as a consultant for visual and print media.