She was born in 1961 in Çanakkale. She completed her secondary education at T.E.D. Ankara College and her high school education at Bornova Anatolian High School, İzmir. She graduated from Ankara University's Faculty of Communication. Her first novel Kritimu: Girit’im Benim was published in 2004 and translated into Greek, Bulgarian and Croatian.
In her Kritimu, the writer, who is a third generation member of a refugee family from Crete, portrays the process that led to the population exchange. The novel depicts the period between 1898, when Crete gained its autonomy and 1923 when the population exchange began. The writer tells the stories of Cretan Christians and Muslims, their relationships, their attitudes towards each other, their friendships, enmities, the ups and downs of their relationship, the sufferings of both societies, their anger and loneliness.
Through a plain language and from an objective perspective, the writer depicts a sorrowful reality in her narrative. She discusses how the political events during the island's most difficult times reflect upon the daily lives of the two societies, their life styles, emotions, family and friendship relations and how fear, intimidation and worry affect them. Kritimu not only invites the reader to witness the pains of the people but also reveals how severe the cost of marginalization is for both the societies and the individuals.
Kritimu: Girit’im Benim is a testimonial narrative. The writer was inspired by her family's past. The novel portrays the developments in Crete during the years that the Ottoman Empire began losing lands. In Crete, Muslims and Christians were commingled and their traditions had grown to resemble each other. When Turkey and Greece signed the cartel, the Turkish left the island on ships. Turkish Yarmakamakis family from Crete were among those who left the island. Ibrahim Yarmakamakis, who settled in Çanakkale and took the Altınsay surname, is the grandfather of Saba Altınsay. In the novel, Crete itself is almost like a character, depicted through its unique nature and its scents that capture the soul. Oruç Aruoba notes:
“'The diaspora dragged not only those who left but also those who stayed,' says Saba Altınsay. If the land that the person was born and will die is not going to be the same, what would be left of life on the way to death? This novel is an effort to find an answer to that question.”
Kritimu: Girit’im Benim was translated into Greek with the support of TEDA and published in 2008.
The writer's second novel, Benim Hiç Suçum Yok was published in 2011. It is set during World War II and in a small town by the sea. The story depicts a cad Cihan Nedim, whom women adore and a prostitute, Mercan, with whom he is in love. Altınsay presents how our decisions affect us, whilst also questioning the concepts of good, evil, justice, equity and punishment. Moreover, the lives of the town's ordinary people, who are gripped by the fear of war, poverty and hunger, are depicted as they shuttle between pain, selfishness, loneliness, grudge, and hatred and goodness, love, mercy, and self-sacrifice. The novel portrays the battle of the desire to change the flow of life, to interfere with one's future against fate. It points to how testing our strength against fate by attempting to replace it might result in tragedy.
Both of the novels are composed of rich descriptions and character analyses. In Saba Altınsay's works, geography, time period and nature are important. The main character of the first novel is Crete as well as İbrahim Yarmakamakis. In Benim Hiç Suçum Yok, (K), who views the events from a third person perspective and who sometimes gets involved, is the dominant element alongside the main character, Cihan Nedim.
Saba Altınsay's style is open to similes and metaphors and makes ample use of colours and light. It sometimes creates the feeling that it is enriched by folk literature, achieving a fairytale-like atmosphere. Striking, profound and long sentences do not lose their fluidity despite the words borrowed from Ottoman Turkish. The writer places importance to nature, vegetation, time and space. She has the attitude of an observer who examines the relationship between the society and the individual and who makes cause and effect connections, and presenting them in a literary language.
The writer has two published stories. Her story “Merhamet, Sevgi, Masumiyet ve İşte Öylesine” in the anthology Kadın Öykülerinde İstanbul and “Kimsecik” published in German in the anthology Unser Istanbul, Junge Türkische Literatura.