From 1980 to 1985, she studied at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow, under the supervision of Lev Ozerov.
Following her graduation, she worked variously in Housing and communal services, as a dishwasher, at the publisher Fizkultura i sport, as a theatre reviewer for the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1990–1991), at the art department of the newspaper Today (1993–1996), as a political editor of the journal Itogi, and as chief editor in charge of promotion and design of the broadcaster Channel One Russia (1996–2003). The programme A Minute of Silence was revived under her aegis, following its stoppage between 1992–1995 after the fall of the Soviet Union. Khemlin was married to the writer and translator Vardvan Varzhapetian.
Khemlin"s first publication was the short story Illegal Hold (alternatively Sucker Punch) in the collection Sucker Punch: Sports Detective (issue 3, 1991, with Anatoly Belikov).
In 2012, Khemlin was appointed to the jury of the New York-based O"Henry Prize for short stories in the Russian language. Khemlin died on 24 October 2015.