Virginia Eggertsen Sorensen was born on February 17, 1912, in Provo, Utah, to Helen ElDeva Eggertsen and Claude E. Eggertsen, an agent for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. Sorensen grew up in Manti, a small town in Utah's Sanpete Valley, where her fifth grade teacher encouraged her to write. This early encouragement was important in her development, as was her Mormon faith.
On August 16, 1933, Virginia married Frederick C. Sorensen of Mendon, Utah. In 1934, the couple moved to Palo Alto, California, where Frederick studied for his doctorate in English at Stanford University. Virginia received her bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University in the mall. During this time, Sorensen gave birth to two children, a daughter in 1934, and a son in 1936. After Frederick received his doctorate, the family moved frequently, living in California, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Alabama, and Pennsylvania. The Sorensens later divorced.
In 1942 Virginia Sorensen published her first book, an adult novel titled A Little Lower than Angels. During 1946 and 1947, she lived on a Guggenheim fellowship in Sonora, Mexico, which inspired her novel The Proper Gods (1951), about the Yaqui Native Americans of Sonora. In 1953 Sorensen published her first book for young readers, Curious Missie, and from 1954 to 1955, she was on a Guggenheim fellowship in Denmark, the setting of her novel Kingdom Come (1960). The American Library Association awarded Sorensen the 1957 Newbery Medal for Miracles on Maple Hill.
Sorensen married the author Alec Waugh on July 15, 1969, and moved with him to Tangier, Morocco.