I haven't played WOW for maybe 8 years or so. My subscription would have ended about the same time. If I resubscribe and download WoW again will I be able to start where I left off with my old characters or will I have to start from scratch? I managed to sign in after resetting my password and the status of my account is BANNED.
Call Blizzard support. There are lots of reasons why an account can get banned (unless of course you broke the rules yourself then you know the reason) for example, they will ban accounts that get compromised, but if you can prove it's really you this time, they can unban and reactivate your account. Banned account does not mean that characters are deleted. I've known several people who came back to WoW after many years to find their stuff gone and/or accounts banned, and a call to Blizzard support fixed it all up for them.
Characters are not deleted for inactivity, even when the account is banned. Here's a link to a WoW forum thread discussing the topic: http://eu.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7339045392
Characters that are on an inactive account for a long time, may get renamed (to free it up for someone else) but whilst Blizzard reserve the right to delete characters, they have not yet enforced this right.
I recommend contacting player support. You'll probably find that your account was commandeered by a gold farmer/botter and was banned that way. I've had my characters still around even after long periods of time.
No. If your account was banned, you cannot access those characters as long as the account is banned. If you are able to contact Blizzard support and have the ban reversed, it may be possible to recover the account and characters.
If your account status is banned, you'll need to resolve that before you'll be able to log in.
Blizzard does not delete characters - all your characters will still be around. However, those characters will probably need new names:
Any characters that have not logged into the game since December 7, 2010 will have their names freed up, making them available to anyone creating a new character or using the paid Character Name Change service.