The church is built as a fortified church which served as a place of refuge during wendish incursions in the 13th century. At that time the stream on the east side of the church was a navigable fiord, rendering the surrounding villages an easy target for the wendish pirates. The architecture of the church displays both romanesque and gothic style features. The windows in the apse are romanesque round arches while the windows in the nave are gothic pointed arches. The yellow and grey memorial chapel on the southern side of the church was built in 1766-1769 by Count A. G. Moltke and drawn by C. F. Harsdorff. The neo-classical style contrasts the medieval brickwork of the church.
The original village was situated northwest of the church. A large part of the village was consumed in a great fire in 1804 and never rebuilt since the village was undergoing enclosure. Modern day Karise is centered around the railway station which was built in 1879. The railway connects Karise with neighbouring towns Fakse and Hårlev as well as Køge and Copenhagen.
According to the legend of Mrs. Marthe, her estate Karisegård was destroyed by wendish pirates. Mrs. Marthe fled to a small chamber above the apse of Karise Church and remained there until her property was reconstructed.
Poet and novelist B. S. Ingemann mentions the fictive person Karl of Riise in his historic novel Valdemar the Victorius (Danish: Valdemar Seier). Karl of Riise is the esquire of archbishop Absalon during the crusade against the Estonians. In the Battle of Lyndanisse in 1219, Karl af Rise is mentioned as the person, who caught the Danish flag, Dannebrog, when it fell from the sky.
The title of the Danish national play Elven Hill (Danish: Elverhøj) refers to a small mound situated 2.5 kilometers northeast of Karise.