She was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and raised in Chatsworth, California, the daughter of former Western Swing bandleader and comedian Hank Penny and his wife, Shari. An early acting appearance was on the miniseries The Thorn Birds when she was only 11 years old as young Meggie. She also appeared as Dani in The New Gidget and as a pigeon-obsessed youngster in an episode of the police series T. J. Hooker. At the age of 13, Penny played Megan Wheeler in the Clint Eastwood western Pale Rider, released on June 26, 1985. For this performance she was awarded a Young Artist Award at the 7th Youth in Film Awards in December 1985.
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