He was a transitional figure, who helped bring Croatian literature from Romanticism to Realism and introduced the historical novel to Croatia. He wrote more than ten novels, among which the most notable are:
Šenoa was also the author of the popular patriotic song "Živila Hrvatska".
He was born in Zagreb, then part of the Habsburg Empire, into a family of Czech-German origin. His surname was originally spelled Schönoa. He studied law in Prague. He also lived in Vienna for a while, but returned to Zagreb in 1866. He died in Zagreb at the age of 43.
From 1874 to 1881, he edited the literary journal Vijenac ("Wreath").
This "father of Croatian novel" (and modern national literature) is at best in his mass Cecildemillean scenes and poetic description of oppressed Croatian peasantry, nobility struggling against foreign rule (Venetians, Austrians/Germans and Hungarians) and romanticised period from the 15th to the 18th century. It has become a commonplace phrase that "Šenoa created the Croatian reading public", especially by writing in a popular style.