Born at Cumiana in 1879, he studied in the Turin's Accademia Albertina, where he frequented Symbolist poets such as Arturo Graf and Giovanni Cena. In 1906 he moved to Rome and in 1912 he exhibited his works at the Biennale di Venezia. In 1913–1915 he began to be influenced by the style of Cézanne and Matisse; in the World War I period Carena lived in Anticoli Corrado, a hamlet outside Rome.
In 1922 he created in Rome an art school and, two years later, he began to teach in the Florence Academy. In 1945 he moved to Venice, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Painters who studied under Carena include Giuseppe Capogrossi.
He died in Venezia in 1966.