Zhelyazkova was considered the "bad girl" of filmmaking, according to Bulgarian news reports, which led to bans of some of her films made during the communist era.
She directed both feature films and documentaries in a career that spanned four decades, and worked with some of the country's best actors. Her films were shown at leading international competitions. Poslednata duma competed in Cannes in 1974. Baseynat was the Silver Prize at the Moscow Film Festival in 1977, and A byahme mladi won th Golden Prize at Moscow in 1961. In 2007, Zhelyazkova received a lifetime achievement award for her contribution to Bulgarian cinema.
Zhelyazkova was married to Bulgarian screenwriter Hristo Ganev, who collaborated on some of her films.