Adolf Müllner was born Amandus Gottfried Adolf Müllner on October 18, 1774, in Langendorf, a town near Weissenfels, a small city in Saxony (now in Germany). His father was an official in the service of the electoral prince of Saxony and his mother a sister of Gottfried Bürger, a well-known German poet. Müllner attended elementary and secondary schools in Weissenfels and Schulpforte, and he studied law in Leipzig from 1793 to 1797. Later he obtained a doctorate from the University of Wittenberg. He settled down to a career in law, first in Delitzsch and then in Weissenfels, where he lived for most of his life. In 1802, he married Amalie von Logau, whom he had long loved but who had first been engaged to his stepbrother, who died before the union took place.
Müllner was a prolific writer. He wrote numerous reviews of juridical works and a number of articles and books on various aspects of jurisprudence. He was also interested in literature and the theater. His first belletristic work was a lurid novel called Der Incest: Oder, Der Schutzgeist von Avignon (1799; incest: or, the protective spirit of Avignon). He founded an amateur theater in Weissenfels in 1810 and wrote a number of short comedies that were produced there. These works are slight and imitative but dramatically effective. They were not published until 1815.
In 1812 Müllner reached the pinnacle of his literary success with his two fate tragedies, Der neunundzwanzigste Februar and Guilt. The latter was especially successful; it is considered one of the best specimens of the fate tragedy genre, in which tragic events take place on certain fateful days or in certain fateful places. Both plays are written in trochaic tetrameter, in imitation of the classical Spanish drama. Müllner essayed his hand at two more dramas in the same vein, König Yngurd (King Yngurd) in 1817 and Die Albaneserin (the Albanian woman) in 1820, neither of which met with much success. For the rest of his life he edited anthologies and journals and wrote a number of lesser works, most of them short. His novel The Caliber first appeared in the 1828 issues of a journal he edited, Mitternachtsblatt für gebildete Stände (midnight paper for the educated classes). Müllner died of a stroke on June 11, 1829.