What is the difference between variable life insurance and universal life?
Nothing is the difference. Universal Life can be fixed or variable. Variable simply means that the cash value is invested in stocks or mutual funds to create a fast (sometimes slower) cash value. With a fixed Universal Life product, the cash value can be linked to an interest rate or an Index.
The primary difference is how the cash value is invested. Variable universal life means it is invested in stocks and mutual funds and a "fixed" universal life is usually dependent on interest rates. Both carry high risk, but a fixed universal life policy gives you a guarantee that it will not go below a certain interest rate, while variable universal policies usually do not.