Kaul was born in St. Louis, Mo., and earned a bachelor's degree in English and psychology from Central Methodist College (Fayette, Mo.). He worked as a reporter and education writer for daily newspapers in Kentucky and Missouri. Kaul earned a master's degree in humanities from Western Kentucky University, where he taught before going to Southern Mississippi. He later earned master's and doctoral degrees in journalism from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His research specialties were mass media history, media ethics, and literary journalism.