We develop a theory of collective spin dynamics triggered by ultrafast optical excitation of ferromagnetic semiconductors. Using the density matrix equations of motion in the mean field approximation and including magnetic anisotropy and hole spin dephasing effects, we predict the development of a light-induced magnetization tilt during ultrashort time intervals comparable to the pulse duration. This femtosecond dynamics in the coherent temporal regime is governed by the interband nonlinear optical polarizations and is followed by a second temporal regime governed by the magnetic anisotropy of the Fermi sea. We interpret our numerical results by deriving a Landau-Gilbert-like equation for the collective spin, which demonstrates an ultrafast correction to the magnetic anisotropy effective field due to second-order coherent nonlinear optical processes. Using the Lindblad semigroup method, we also derive a contribution to the interband polarization dephasing determined by the Mn spin and the hole spin dephasing. Our predicted magnetization tilt and subsequent nonlinear dynamics due to the magnetic anisotropy can be controlled by varying the optical pulse intensity, duration, and helicity and can be observed with pump-probe magneto-optical spectroscopy. © 2008 The American Physical Society.