Riley Voelkel was born in Elk Grove, California. She has a younger brother. After she was born, her family moved to Canada. She later relocated to the United States for work.
Voelkel commenced her working career as a model, and has previously worked with VISION Los Angeles and Verve Magazine. She began her acting career as an extra, and with smaller roles on shows such as Glory Daze, The Mentalist, and Glee. Voelkel also scored larger roles in Prom (2011) and The Secret Life of Dorks (2013). That year, Voelkel scored her first recurring role on a television series when she was cast on American Horror Story. She portrayed the young adult version of Jessica Lange's character, Fiona Goode in a series of flashbacks.
Voelkel reunited with her coworker Danielle Campbell from Prom (2011), when she was offered the role as Freya Mikaelson on The Originals. Voelkel joined the series in a recurring capacity, and was promoted to a main by the start of the show's third season.
While on a break from The Originals' filming, Voelkel portrayed Christina in the film Scrambled (set to be released in 2016).
- Freya Mikaelson (The Originals) is the second role in which Voelkel has portrayed a witch. The first role was as the young Supreme, Fiona Goode (American Horror Story: Coven).